Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Taking a Different Tack Part III

By John S. Mickman

Just before we broke out from behind the breakwater, I turned our bow into the wind and Jim hoisted the mains'l. On the way up, the sail was flapping like crazy. "Keep going Jimmy", I called out as he cranked the windless as fast as he could, which raised the sail. "The batons have cleared the skipjacks so just go full bore!", I exclaimed trying to minimize wear and tear on the sail because it was flapping so hard. "OK Jim, just 3 more feet, 2 more feet, 6 inches more. That's it. Make 'er fast", and Jim secured the halyard brake and took the mains'l halyard off the windless. Next Jim spread the fores'l as I turned the boat to port. When the wind caught both these sails, Morning Star began to fly on her own and I shut down the engine. "Yeee-Haaa..." Jim shouted as the wind seeming lifted the boat half way out of the water. "We're just flying along John".

I smiled at Jim, a little less exhilarated; the anemometer read 32 knots as we broke free of the harbors' breakwater. The morning's forecast hadn't been any different from the previous evenings; 25 knots 'till noon, then 30 knots - but it was only 6:30 and we already had over 30 knots of wind. To make matters worse, the wind had not let up over the night, and the seas had continued to build. There were 8 foot sea's, plus the odd rogue wave to over 12 feet. Big weather for our 37' sailboat.

But, Morning Star is a tough little boat and parted the seas nicely as we sailed along. I advised Jim that we may need to put the weather on our tail and return to the harbor if it got too much tougher, but for the time being we'd keep plowing along.

The other bad news was that the wind was still from the NNW - right from the direction we needed to go. So we began our close coast tacking, back and forth sailing rapidly, but never in the right direction. After an hour, we had only gained about 3 miles of distance toward Dana Point, even though we were making about 5 knots of speed.

As the wind continued to build, now at 35 knots, Jim and I decided to take a different tack: "We just aren't making enough headway Jim. I think we need to head off-shore about 10 or 12 miles and hope to catch the wind off our portside bow enough to blow us up to Dana Point", I said. Jim agreed, but offered that he hoped we wouldn't need to get that far off shore, "At 5 knots that 10 miles is going to take 2 hours John, and we'll be going in the wrong direction. We won't get any further away from Dana Point, but we sure won't be getting any closer. Don't you want to be back in a harbor by noon?" he asked.

"Yea I do Jim, but we aren't going to make it by trying to tack back and forth all day. I think it's worth a shot. If we don't like the way it's going, or the weather gets too tough, we can always change course and let the wind blow us back to Oceanside", I said. "OK John, let' come about then. A different tack - coming up!", Jim shouted.

 Jim is a great guy to go sailing with, as we can bounce ideas off each other until we arrive at the best decisions. Hopefully. And being my brother, he has the same sense of adventure and 'brinkmanship' as me. We're both always ready to take a calculated risk - usually with a backup plan in place. "OK Jimmy, coming about", I yelled through the wind as Jim went forward to work the rigging.

When we got on our new course, just a tad north of due west, we picked up another knot of speed to 6 knots. Our 10 mile goal would take us about an hour and a half. Morning Star was knifing through the building seas nicely, but the further out we got, the higher the seas became. When we were down in the trough between two seas, we could not see over their crests.

But Morning Star was doing great and the wind was steady, now at over 35 knots. As Jim and I talked about the wind and the water, we watched as multiple squalls out to sea raced along, most of the time missing us, but not always.  When one of the racing squalls hit us, the wind would pick up a couple of knots and the rain would come down sideways, peppering our faces with hard, cold pricks. Very irritating.

When we were about 8 miles off shore, Jim went below to make a pot of tea to warm up a little bit; I'm not much of a tea drinker, but a nice hot cup of tea sounded good to me too. As we were passing through yet another squall, I squinted through the rain and noted what looked like a sea racing toward us that was much bigger than the others. "Rogue Wave!", I yelled out to Jim down in the galley. "Hang on!"

Years ago while fishing the North Pacific on the King Crab boat the Marcy J, my buddy Chris Jones and I often talked about the different effects of wind on the water. We came up with a grading system that seemed to work pretty well and we always knew what the other was referring to. Flat calm was when the surface was still as a Mill Pond; not a ripple. This condition is rare and we only really saw it when the barometer would drop precipitously before a SW gale. It would become very calm - and scary if we were fishing way off shore.

Then there was a rippled surface, then chop, then waves, then seas and then ground swells. After a couple of days of 40 knot plus winds, the ground swells are the ones that grow to 40 foot plus monsters. The distance between the crests of huge ground swells can approach a hundred yards or more depending upon the height of the swell. The problem is that in big weather, there are ripples on the waves, waves on the seas, that can approach 20 feet, and seas on the 40 ground swells. When a big sea and a huge ground swell break together at the crest it is an unfortunate place for your boat to be. This whole living thing moves at breakneck speed and no vessel will slow it down; the ship needs to move with the sea or she will break apart.

I've never found anything more exhilarating than being at sea is a storm - big or small. The energy of the wind and water as they move past you and your vessel is incalculable. If you're on a good boat, it's fun. If you are not, it will be terrifying.

They call them rouge waves, but this one was a 20 foot sea, and it came screaming up to us at breakneck speed. As Morning Star climbed up the steep side of this sea, there were large waves upon her surface that were breaking, and their froth was being lifted off the water and into the air; 'smoke on the water'. I glanced at the anemometer; the needle bounced off 40 knots of now screaming wind. This was sailing!

The boat was cutting through these smaller waves nicely, but as we neared the top of this sea, a large wave joined with the sea and they combined to break together into a foaming broth of cold sea water. I held on to the wheel tightly as our bow went through this breaker - not over it - cascading water across the whole boat. Heavy spray hit me hard across the face and chest in a refreshing burst that nearly took my breath away. As my eyes cleared, I saw our bow and the front third of the boat clear the top of the sea, becoming airborne, and then come crashing down the back side as we raced down to the trough again. I worried that the bow would bury itself into the next oncoming sea and have a tough time recovering, but when we hit bottom, Morning Star's bow bobbed up like a cork; no worries.

When the commotion died down, I called down to Jimmy; we needed to talk. "OK Jim, that last sea was a big one and right at the wrong moment the wind hit 40 knots. I've decided that is the line; if the wind sustains 40, we're coming about and heading back to Oceanside", I said with about as much conviction as I've ever mustered.

Jim thought about it and offered, "How about if we came about and got the wind on a starboard tack? She might handle quite a bit better. I hate to turn around when we've gone this far", Jim said. I replied that we weren't far enough off shore to tack back yet, and we'd have to climb just as far into the wind, just from the other side of the boat. "Nope", I said. "We will stay on this course for at least another 15 minutes, then take a look at our position. I don't want to have to climb up these seas like this all day."

In the end, we agreed that we needed to hold onto our present course until we could get a good tack, on a more favorable course, right into Dana Point harbor. The gods were with us because the wind never hit 40 knots again, it stayed at about 35 knots or a little more. We were really having a great time, telling stories, adjusting the sails, watching each sea carefully to make sure we 'hit' it right and checking our gear. Sailing in heavy weather is a busy pursuit.

We finally reached a point just over 10 miles off shore, that a course back toward Dana Point looked favorable. "Stand by the come about Jim", I yelled over the still screaming wind and spray. "OK skipper, I'm ready to go", Jim yelled back after getting his lines ready. I turned the wheel to starboard and Morning Star responded, instantly turning her nose back toward the NNE - back toward land.

This different tack took us on a course just upwind from Dana Point; perfect! And with a little less 'up hill' sailing to do, our speed picked up to almost 9 knots; a perfect course. We were slicing through the water as the seas, now coming on to us from about the 10 o'clock position, lifted us gently up then set us down just as nicely. We were making almost twice the speed as we had been earlier in the day - and the day before. Brother Jim and I were elated as I checked our course, speed and time to destination; just about an hour. We would be in Dana Point by noon. Perfect.

At about that time, a large squall cleared and we saw Dana Point for the first time. We couldn't quite make out where the harbor entrance was, so I referred to the iPad Nav app and had Jim adjust our course accordingly. Then, about a half hour before reaching the harbor, a hole in the clouds broke open and showered the small harbor area with wonderful, golden sunshine. Grinning, I looked at my brother and said,  "Look at that Jim. They turned on the lights for us". Jim started chuckling and gave me a big hug. "What a great sail Johnny", he said as his crazy helmet raked across my ear and his grizzly whiskers sanded the side of my cheek.

The closer we got to the harbor, the sunnier it became, and we shed our jackets and sweaters and basked in the warm sunshine. It felt wonderful. When we arrived behind the breakwater at Dana Point, the wind died down to less than 15 knots and we took down the sails as we motored slowly up the calm waters of the channel. We watched as the people on shore enjoyed a day in what appeared to be a wonderful park. How nice and relaxed they seemed.  But they had all missed a wonderful sailing trip up the coast with my brother Jim and me. As I thought about how lucky my brother and I are to be able to spend time like this together, I had to brush a small tear from my eye.

Arriving at noon, we had time to explore Dana Point and environs, and decided to hitchhike to Capistrano Mission a tad south in San Clemente. What a fabulous old Mission – one of just a handful of Spanish Missions that were established in California in the 1700 and 1800’s.

At our first corner we purchased $10 worth of fresh strawberries (two heaping baskets full) from a fruit stand. The lady wouldn’t just sell us a smaller amount, but Jim and I figured we would share with whoever picked us up. However, taking our first bite of these luscious strawberries, as the sweet juice ran down our chins, we both know we would be hard pressed to share. We ended up having to take a bus due to no one giving us a ride (it isn’t like the old days) and we ate every last strawberry. We were so full of fruit, that when we met cousin Heidi and Tim for dinner, we weren’t very hungry. However, we had a lovely dinner and it was a wonderful time catching up with these two wonderful, engaged people. And, as a bonus, Tim refused to let us pay our share of the check; a free dinner! Thank you Tim!

*  *  *  *  *

Sometime later, I thought about how much this sailing trip reminded me of any number of times in my life. You know, things just don't seem to be going well, and whatever you do, they don't seem to get any better.

I've been there many, many times. I would find myself taking short tacks in a direction that was not working. Then, a big, new idea occurs to me, one that would involve some degree of risk, but what the hell, the other ideas weren't working anyway; why not try it.

So, I take a completely different tack, making the commitment to a big course change. I've seldom regret the things I've done; I only regret the times when I didn't try something ‘that could have been’.

My brother Jim agreed. A month after this sailing adventure, they found another tumor growing inside of our brother Jim's brain. Jimmy passed away on Easter Sunday at 6:30 PM, in 2013 at his home with our family looking on. He was only 58 years old.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Taking a Different Tack Part II

By John S. Mickman

Sometimes I wish I had more of Jim's empathy. I chose to start a small business with brother Chris many years ago, and I'm afraid the rigors and constant stress of our company have taken their toll on me. I think I'm a little too focused and goal oriented to be a good, empathetic listener. If I make a mistake, someone's tree may die; if Jim makes a mistake, a person could die. Jim deals with this pretty well and is very good at comforting people. On the other hand, I'm pretty good in an emergency situation.

As I took deep gulp of my coffee, I looked checked the deck navigation system to verify our current position; to my dismay, it was dead! "Jim, something happened when that big sea hit us; we don't have any GPS or Radar!", I called out. Jim came around the helms station and looked at the now black screen and said, "That's not good. I wonder what happened?" 

I looked over the starboard rail toward the coast and said, "My guess is that there was a bad electrical connection somewhere that just got knocked lose. I don't think we'll be able to find the problem in this weather. We can't see shore, but I know where we are - at least for awhile". I knew there were no ships anywhere within 20 miles, and we still had visibility of about 2 miles; we were about 4 miles off shore at the time.

In addition to being a good doctor, brother Jim is also an excellent sailor and he wasn't too concerned - but we both knew this could work into a pretty good problem if conditions deteriorated. "So, do we have an new plan John?", Jim asked as we continued racing in a WNW course - heading offshore.

We've been in heavy weather sailing a couple of times together, the last time being offshore near the Virgin Islands. That time the winds were blowing the same, at about 25 knots, and the warm rain was coming down in virtual sheets. With this limited visibility, we had run over a crab pot buoy which became tangled with our rudder and propeller, turning this crab pot into a virtual anchor. To get clear of this the crab pot, Jim volunteered to dive overboard in the maelstrom to clear the line from our sailboat. He was successful and everything turned out OK. Things can happen fast in a storm at sea, and we were both pretty tuned in to the conditions at hand on this 'salty' day.

With a smile, I asked Jim to take the helm as I went below decks to get my iPad. My backup was a navigation app on the iPad on which I had loaded the southern California coastal charts. This great tool, as is also has a GPS locator loaded into it. As I worked the iPad, the virtual chart jumped to life on the screen, showing our current location, course, navigational hazards and available moorages and harbors.

Still smiling, I returned to deck and showed Jim the iPad screen and explained that as long as we don't venture too far offshore, we have navigational GPS almost as handy as our now inoperable onboard 'nav station'. Jimmy was pleased. "Good deal John. This is great. How far offshore do you think it will work?", he asked me. "Well, I know that south of Point Loma it is good for about 10 miles, but it may be different up here. But, I'm sure it will work for a couple of miles off shore before we lose the signal which will keep us safe even if it fogs up into a pea-soup. There are no offshore reefs anywhere around here. We're good to go", as we sailed on.

By 2:30 it was clear there was no way we were going to make it to Dana Point by nightfall, and I called Heidi to tell her. "So where are you going to moor tonight?", she asked. "There is a great harbor at Oceanside and we're headed there right now", I told her. "We should be there by about 5 o'clock - an hour or so before dark." We talked for a few more minutes and then I called the Oceanside Harbormaster on the VHS to confirm that there were some open slips at the transient dock; there were. The Harbormaster then informed me that they were dredging the mouth of the harbor and to be careful. Good advice!

After conferring with Jim, we came about with a new, more easterly course toward Oceanside. Just before 5 o'clock we dropped our sails outside the mouth of the Oceanside Harbor and fired up our engine. There were a half dozen other sailboats kind of milling around the entrance, seemingly confused about which way to enter the harbor because the huge dredging machine was blocking nearly the entire harbor entrance.

After trying to reach the dredger on the VHS radio to no avail, I chose a course to pass the dredger on our starboard side, around the churning monster vessel  and entered the harbor - using the iPad nav app. I knew there had to be at least one large flex-pipe leading to shore, but from our position we couldn't it. As we passes slowly by the prehistoric looking creature, Jim and I both spotted the big pipe that brings the dredged material to shore. To our delight, we had correctly chosen the correct course (a 50/50 gamble).The other boats followed our lead into the safety of the calm water within the harbor.

Once inside the harbor area, we found the transient dock, chose a slip and tied up to the well appointed dock. After plugging into shore power, we walked up to the Harbormasters Shack - which doubled as the Harbor Police Station, to pay the moorage fee. By the time, just after 6 o'clock, the Harbormaster had gone home for the day, and a burly policeman unlocked the door and grudgingly let us into the building.

"What can I do for you guys?", he asked in a markedly unfriendly tone, like we were bothering him. "Well, we just got into town and we're tied up in Slip #3 down there", I replied, pointing over to Morning Star. "We want to pay the moorage fee. Can you make that happen?" "Yea", he grumbled back to us and pointed to an inside door within the small building entryway. I went through the door, as the cop went through the next door down, putting him on the opposite side of a large counter in a good sized office area. The door I had entered through closed, and I heard a loud 'CLICK' as an automatic lock slammed into place. Jim hadn't come through the door.

With a markedly alarmed tone, the cop called out, "What happened to that other guy?". I quickly replied that I didn't know, at which point the cop ran back through his door and I heard him yell out, "What the hell do you think you're doing wandering around here?". I heard Jim reply in a much subdued tone, "Well, I'm just trying to find a restroom. Do you know where I can find one?"

"Yeah, I know where you can find one, but you can't just wander around the Police Station like this. I'm the only one on duty and I'm already doing you guys a favor letting you in after hours. Come through this door", the cop directed Jim, with a tone that was getting more gruff with each sentence. I watched as first Jim, then the cop, returned through the door on the opposite side of the counter from me. The cop grumbled something to Jim and pointed to a door marked as a unisex restroom.

After watching Jim enter the restroom, the cop turned his attention to me and asked to see my license and insurance certificate. I passed these documents over to him for examination, but noticed that he was nervously looking over his shoulder ever few seconds to watch for Jim when he came out of the restroom. I also noticed that he kept in right hand on his pistol holster; I didn't know if it was a habit of his or if he was expecting to use his firearm on one of us dangerous looking, pleasure sailors. In an effort to put him more at ease, I made small talk with him as I filled out a couple of forms for him, commenting on the weather, asking about local restaurants...

Jim was in there quite awhile, but the cop was feeling a little more comfortable; he took his hand off of his pistol. "There is a small craft advisory out for tomorrow", the cop said to me. "Here is a copy of it", he said as he pushed a computer printout across the counter to me. At just about that time, Jim came out of the restroom and began to meander through the office area. The cop looked annoyed and said to Jim, "you know this isn't really a public area of the building. I'd sure appreciate it if you would get over to the other side of the counter with your brother", he said as Jim perked up and walked directly over to the door, went through it and then tried the now locked door on my side of the counter. I opened the door for him and Jim joined me safely on 'our side' of the counter. After paying the cop $25, Jim and left and returned to the boat.

Once there, we popped open a couple of beers and read the Small Craft Advisory. It predicted sustaining winds before noon the next day up to 25 knots, increasing to 30 knots sometime after 12 o'clock noon. "Well", I started, "25 knots is about what we had all day today Jim. We only have about 18 miles to Dana Point, so if we get an early start, we should be there well before noon. I don't think this is going to be a problem. I think we should throw the lines off at about 6 AM which should put is at Dana Point well before noon." Jim agreed, "Yea that sounds good to me. And I really don't want to spend all day tomorrow in Oceanside. Let's plan on leaving early like you say before the wind picks up mid-day."

The inside of Morning Star's cabin is all dark, teak paneling and with our kerosene lamp on, it is nice and cozy. We discussed the events of the day over a couple of cold brews and agreed that the boat was doing well except for the navigation system. I had taken a quick look at the wiring harnesses and they looked just fine. However, the iPad chart was really all we needed and we both felt comfortable with this back-up system. Jim and I were a little beat up and wind- burned from being on deck all day, but we felt good.

I took a last long pull off my beer as I thought about the plan, "OK Jim, let's be ready to leave the harbor at 6 tomorrow, but we'll take a look at it to and get an updated forecast. If the weather looks any tougher than we like it, we'll make the final decision at that time. Let's find a place to get dinner in town", and we left the boat to get something to eat.

The alarm went off at 5:45 AM and I rolled out of my bunk and started a pot of coffee. Going out on deck, the sun was not up yet but the sky was beginning to show a gun-steel grey and the low clouds were streaming past Morning Stars rigging, hell-bent for high water. I looked at the anemometer and it read 20 knots of wind, right there in the harbor. Hmmmm...

Back in the deckhouse, Jim was heating water for his tea while he finished putting his sweater on. "Looks like you're about ready to go Jim" I said. "Let's fire up the engine and get the rigging ready to go while we're waiting for the caffeine to get ready." By 6 o'clock we were throwing off the lines and heading out toward the breakwater.

As we glided through the water under power, a light rain started coming down which the wind was driving in sheets. Jim and I both squinted into the weather, watching for the navigation buoys that would guide us out of the harbor. When we reached the tall, stone rip-rap breakwater, a hundred pelicans were standing in a straight line across the top, beaks into the wind with wings tucked tightly to their bodies. The anemometer now read 24 knots.

End of Part II
Watch for the conclusion of 'Taking a Different Tack' in next weeks' Newsletter

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Taking a Different Tack

by John S. Mickman

This story is dedicated to my brother Jim.

At 8 AM, standing on the deck of Morning Star, our 38' sailboat, brother Jim and I watched the dark, grey clouds as they raced above San Diego Harbor. The breeze in the harbor was 15 knots, and we knew that the wind 'outside' -around Point Loma - was probably blowing a pretty steady 20 knots plus. The good news was that the forecast predicted that it wouldn't get any worse as the day wore on.

The plan was to sail up to Dana Point, 65 miles up the coast that grey March day, to meet our cousin Heidi and husband Tim for dinner. We had planned to get an earlier start, but I dropped buddy Bill off at the airport, and the drive had taken a little longer than expected. Because neither Jim nor I had ever sailed into the Dana Point harbor, we wanted to arrive before dark that evening - a pretty good poke for a sailboat, unless we had some very good sailing weather.

After readying the rigging, we fired up the engine, backed out of the mooring slip and motored out of the marina. After clearing the harbor, we hoisted the sails and began our run to Point Loma which we needed to round before we began our sail north the Dana Point. It was kind'a chilly, and a light drizzle began to spit at us as the northeast breeze continued to build.

"Hey Jimmy", I called out as we neared the point. "This early in the season I think we can cut pretty close to the point without having to worry about running into any thick kelp beds". Each summer at least one sailboat would be caught up in the thick, heavy strands of kelp and become disabled. Brother Jim agreed. "I'll stand watch-out on the bow and look for any early kelp beds. If I see it getting too thick, I'll let you know." If we cut close to the point without having to run 2 miles off shore before 'rounding Point Loma, we would save at least an hour of sailing time.

The gamble paid off as Jim guided us past many kelp beds that may have fouled our rudder and propeller. However, by the time we were able to set course north for Dana Point it was after 9 o'clock. The good news was that it was blowing a pretty steady 20 knots from the NW, just enough off of our bow to allow for good cruising.

After the sails were properly set, Jim and I reviewed our timetable. "We have 65 miles to go, and even at 6 - 7 knots, it will still take 10 hours to get to Dana Point", I said. "This is going to be close even if the wind holds." We were both squinting through the windborne drizzle at the steel grey Pacific Ocean. Although our visibility was less than 2 miles, our radar told me that there were no other small boats for at least 5 miles, and no ships within 20 miles. Jim reported the readings of both the anemometer (wind speed gauge) and the wind directional indicator with the comment that if things don't change, we should be able to make our randaveau with cousin Heidi for dinner.

With the wind off our bow by about 25 degrees, we had the sails as close hauled as they would go and we were making about 7 knots of speed. The wind had not laid down the previous night, so the seas were high - and building. Our sailboat, Morning Star was a 37.5 Hunter Legend with sloop rigging. She has a glass hull and a heavily weighted, winged keel allows us to sail in shallower water. This keel design also gives us a smoother ride in tough weather as the keels' 'wings' act as stabilizers and and takes some of the bounce out of the ride. Whenever two sailboats are going the same direction it is a race (whether you like it or not), and time and again Morning Star has proven to be a very fast boat for her size. This trip was going to be a pretty good test for Morning Star as I had never had her out for an extended day sail of this sort with this much wind and sea.

By 11 o'clock the wind was blowing a steady 25 knots, gusting to 28 or so. The seas had continued to build and were 6 -8 feet, with some cresting at well over 10 feet. Not too bad, and Morning Star was proving to be a tough little boat. Unfortunately, the wind began to climb more to the north, and with the tack we were on, we were being blown off course, closer to the coast. "Stand-by to come about Jim", I yelled through the now screaming wind. "We need to get more off shore."

After adjusting the mainsail a tad, Jim readied the foresail lines and reported that he was ready. "OK, coming about", I called as I spun the wheel to port. Morning Star responds well and we immediately began the swing to the new, more westerly tack. As the wind blew the foresail to port, Jimmy pulled 'er in with the windless winch. "Snug 'er up tight Jim. We need to sail as steep a course as possible so we don't lose any ground on this tack", I commented. "Yup, got 'er", Jim reported back as he ground the wench handle tighter and tighter. "How do you like that John?", he asked when he thought the foresail was properly set. "Looks about right Jim. Let's try that for a bit and see what the wind does."

So, off we went - in the wrong direction. Tacking a sailboat can seem to be a contrarian exercise to an inexperienced sailor because unless the wind is blowing in the correct direction, you find yourself never really steering in the direction of your destination; our current predicament. You need to 'tack' back and forth as you sail 'against the wind'.

"Jim, I'm going to call Heidi and tell her we may not make it tonight. Unless this wind changes soon, there is no way we're going to make it all the way up to Dana Point. Take the wheel.", I said. Jim took the helm as I hunched under the dodger to get some protection from the weather. I called Heidi on my cell and told her we may not make it that day, but if not, could they meet us tomorrow night? 'Sure', Heidi replied. "Either night is good for us."

Heidi is a pretty good sailor in her own right and asked how bad is was. "Well, if it doesn't get any worse, it's a pretty good sail", I reported.  "We're making good time, we just can't hold a good course to Dana Point. The boat is sailing nicely and Jim and I are having a good time. I'll call you at 2", I said to Heidi, and then hung up. "OK Jim", I said, "Heidi is still open for dinner tomorrow if we don't make it up there tonight." Jim responded, "That's great, it kind of takes the pressure off now that we don't need to get all the way up there tonight. Good deal!"

So, we sailed on as the wind climbed even more toward the north - the direction of Dana Point. As the day wore on, the wind speed steadied at about 25 knots, but the seas were really building. To maintain our 'general course' direction toward Dana Point, we tacked back and forth every 20 minutes or so to keep from getting too close to the coast or too far out to sea.

Three years ago, Jim developed geoblasoma - brain cancer. They had to open up his skull and scoop it out, and then he underwent radiation and 18 months of chemotherapy. He beat the odds by 95% and made an amazing recovery. But he needs to protect his head bone; to that end he wore a Chinese military helmet he acquired when he and his fiancée hitchhiked across China in the 1980's. It looked kind of goofy on a sailboat, but it worked- protecting his head from numerous bumps from the boom when we came about during the trip. Every day is a blessing for Jim and he lives them with gusto.

At about 1 o'clock, Jim was below deck changing into to some warmer clothes as I watched a pretty good sized 'rouge wave' racing toward us. I yelled down to Jim that it was coming, but he was way forward in his stateroom and didn't hear me. As it approached, I changed course and headed right into it so it didn't hit us across our beam. A big sea like this reminds me of a giant, taking a deep breath, and I felt the tremendous energy of the sea as we climbed to the top of the large ground swell. When we reached the top of this large sea, the bow section of Morning Star came out of the water, then came crashing down the back side of the swell. "Yee-Haw", I yelled out as we raced downhill to the fast approaching trough. We here having fun now!

Shortly after that, Jim crawled back up the latter-way to deck and commented on the increasingly rough ride. He had made a cup of tea for himself and gave me a nice hot cup of coffee. "This will warm us up a little bit", he said with a smile as we balanced our hot broths to keep them from spilling onto the deck. "Thanks Jimmy. This tastes great; just the right amount of sugar", I said.

Brother Jim is a really good guy who is always in tune with others. Of all us kids, he was definitely the best one to become a physician. He is a great listener and one that rarely forgets anything and he was honored to be chosen as one of the 'Top Docs' in the Twin Cities a few years back. His specialty is as a Pulmonologist, and unfortunately, many of his patients are very ill. It is very cool when I meet a new person who asks if I know Dr. James Mickman." I always reply, "Jimmy? You bet. He's our middle brother", I say. Then, more often than not, the new acquaintance will say something like, "Well your brother saved my wife's (brother, husband, mother, father...)  life last year." Pretty heavy. It's nice having a brother like my brother Jimmy.

End of Part I
Part II will be in next week's Newletter