January 18, 2002 - Volume 1, Issue #6
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The Mandisa Chronicles

Welcome to the newest part of the web-site family, The Mandisa Chronicles. This page will attempt to tell the continuing story, or those parts of the story I'm willing to talk about, of the sailing vessel Mandisa, a noble vessel, of fine pedigree and deserving of more able sailors than I.

2002/03/21Wherein Mandisa is Moved from Mission Bay to Chula Vista; A Harrowing Adventure of Iron Men and the Sea
2002/03/21, Coming soon!
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2001/08/01Wherein Mandisa is Acquired and Moved to Mission Bay, San Diego
7/20/01, Buying a Big, Scary Boat
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We define big and scary as anything over 10 feet with a permanent keel, and Mandisa definitely meets this criteria. Mandisa is a Robert Perry-designed 30' Baba which is to me a monstrously large vessel.

Of course, the first thing one must do to own a big, scary boat is to buy a big, scary boat, which is in itself a big, scary process in which many people stand around with their palms out, waiting for you to, as I understand it, walk up to one and begin to drop one hundred dollar bills into their outstretched palm until he (or she) smiles and moves some mysterious paper from an in-box to an out-box. You repeat this with the next person in the line, and eventually the sheer weight of the bills will tip some cosmic scale (the workings of which are inextricably linked to your personal karma) signifying that a sufficient number of bills have been distributed to enough people and the big, scary boat is now yours.

You are then given a certificate that signifies your eligibility to distribute one hundred dollar bills to a whole new class of people.

7/28/01, The Importance of a Name
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Naturally a boat needs a name, but what name should she have? Her name at the time of purchase was Benjamin Riley, but it was clear to all concerned (save the previous owner) that she was not a Benjamin, or even a member of the Riley family. How such a tragedy could have occurred I will leave to the previous owners but it was obvious to us that only the name Mandisa would do.

So what does the name mean? I'm not sure. I've read that it is African for sweet but what does that mean? I know there are bunches of African languages, and I don't know to which one Mandisa belongs, but the rythm was good, and we could all dance to it and most importantly, the boat liked it, which I think you can see in this picture, can't you?

A postscript: A lot of people ask me, why Kansas City, MO? Some people even scoff at me for home-porting the boat in the middle of a vast expanse of non-seamanlike dirt such as is Missouri. I frankly don't care. I come from Kansas City, I'm proud of my home city and I like how it looks on my boat. So there.

7/29/01, Taking her home
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Having bought the thing, it was time to take her home. I couldn't afford, nor did I want to keep the boat at Marina Del Rey in Santa Monica. Living in Gilbert, Arizona puts both LA and San Diego at approximately the same distance, and since LA is a major pain in the ass to drive through, I elected to keep the boat at Mission Bay in San Diego, so I made arrangements for a slip at Driscoll in Quivira Basin.

Now was the time to assemble my crack crew. My sister Kelly would act as first mate, while my son Sean would perform the duties of sea-sick auxiliary.

7/30/01, Making Ready
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Everybody knows that you need to get things ready before you take to sea, even if you're only going a mile or two off-shore. Our plan was to take three days to get to a place that takes only three hours to drive to. On the first day we would stop in Newport Beach, a mecca for people with more money than sense. The next day we would stop in Oceanside, a small resort town off of I-5 that no one ever stops in unless they are travelling by boat, and on the final day we would pull in to Mission Bay, assuming that we were still afloat.

So we carefully perused the charts, and scanned our checklists. Cookies? Check. Beer? Check. Chips? Check. Okay, let's go.

7/31/01, Underway!
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After all the work, all the sweat, all the money shelled out to sharks and barracudas, it was time to get the show on the road. I let Kelly have first honors at the helm as we passed out of the Marina Del Rey jetty into the deep, slow swells of the Pacific Ocean. Sean, ever eager to perform his duties, promptly turned green and went below.

We motored to gain a decent distance offshore, then killed the engine and ran up the sails, whereupon we learned an important lesson that will no doubt come in handy in the years and voyages ahead. Sailboats require wind to move. The lesson fully absorbed, we fired up the engine and proceeded apace.

7/31/01, Visitors
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The wind did us the courtesy of staying away for much of the day, obliging us to motor to make the necessary distance before dark. We were all terribly aware of the heinous fate that would befall us should we be caught upon the open ocean at nightfall. (Don't ask. I shudder to think of it.) As we putted along at an eye-popping six knots, Kelly pointed excitedly to port and said, "Look!"

Speeding toward us on an intercept vector was a pod of at least twenty and perhaps more dolphins, or porpoises or really large fish with holes drilled in their skulls. Whatever they were, they met up with us and commenced to leaping out of the water in twos and threes, providing us with fascinating entertainment. We laughed and clapped and snapped photos and shouted with glee, little aware that a covert mission was under way.

7/31/01, Visitors, Continued
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I chanced to glance down at the bow and noticed a couple of dolphins speeding along close to the hull. I wondered what they were doing there while the rest of the group put on the show. It then became clear to me what was going on.

Clearly, the noisy, boisterous group was merely a diversion, while the ones below the ship were a team of operatives set to carry out their true and no doubt evil purpose. I cleverly snapped a photograph of the stealthy Ninja fish and they, realizing that the jig was up and that further, I possessed a means of identifying them should something untoward happen, made haste to get away. As they skulked off into the briny distance, I shouted that I would be keeping these pictures in a safety deposit box with instructions to my lawyer to release them to the New York Times should any "accident" befall me. So who's the smart mammal now? Heh heh.

7/31/01, A Down-wind Run
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As we were heading in to Newport, the wind began to kick up out of the Northwest to the point where we began to get a bit concerned. The waves grew and it became a pretty interesting ride to keep the boat from slewing to the side as we raced down the face of each wave. We were beginning to get the hang of it when we saw this beautiful vessel heading in to Los Angeles harbor. Looking at this picture, I'm struck by the fact that the waves don't look nearly as big as they did from the deck of Mandisa. I wonder if they were simply dinky little waves like this picture shows, and I was just enlarging them in my imagination, or if there isn't some interesting phenomenon in which photography reduces the size of waves through some optical trick. I firmlly believe the latter.

8/1/01, O, Newport
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We stayed the night in Newport and really enjoyed it. It's a very beautiful harbor with Balboa Island smack in the middle. Balboa is a very upper crust place. We ate at a very nice Italian restaurant, but it was hard to enjoy because we were so tired, even though it was pretty early. Spending all day on the ocean, you use lots of muscles holding yourself straight, and that, with the wind and the sunshine, plus lots of stress from worrying about rocks, oil rigs and boats roaring by all work together to make you very tired.

We turned in early for the run to Oceanside the next day.

8/1/01, Poor Sean
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Sean had a tough time of it during the first couple of days. It turns out that he gets seasick, so we fed him some Dramamine and hoped for the best. It further turned out that the best was that the Dramamine knocked him unconcious and he spent all of the first day and most of the second day sleeping. At least he wasn't lurching about, spewing like Old Faithful.

8/1/01, Happy Sean
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On the third day, Sean made something of a recovery, even managing a smile once in a while. I don't think he cares for this offshore sailing business much, but he maintained a pretty good attitude if for no other reason than to humor me. We didn't have much in the way of misadventures, so that helped.

In fact, most everything went as perfectly as could be. We motored more than we sailed, owing to the classic Southern California wind patterns of essentially no wind in the mornings, building to a decent breeze just when it was time for us to head in for the night. I would have loved to sail more, but we didn't have the luxury of not sticking to a schedule, so on came the motor, which ran perfectly the entire way. I look forward to having the time to sail in accordance with what nature gives me, because that implies the total absence of deadlines, pressures and places to be, and the freedom to stop when necessary and to go when conditions dictate. That, to me, sounds like heaven itself.

8/2/01, San Diego
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When conditions and time allowed, we hoisted sail and enjoyed that special peace that comes only on a vessel of sail at sea. I don't want to mislead you. When at sea, I experience a kind of adrenalin-charged, paranoid happiness that makes it impossible to completely relax. I am always on the look out for un-charted hazards, careening, out-of-control power boats, squalls, or spontaneously occurring holes in the hull. Maybe someday, with experience I will find a way to settle into a more even hum of awareness when offshore.

We arrived in San Diego (also known as Kelp Hell Harbor) right on time, about mid-afternoon on the third day. My newly rented slip at Driscoll Mission Bay was there waiting for us. This marina is incredibly different from Marina Del Rey. The wide, luxurious fairways and generous slips of Marina Del Rey seemed even larger when compared to the tight, cramped fairways of Mission Bay. That, coupled with the down-wind, two-boat slip (finger pier on one side only, boat on the other) and the tidal currents complementing the winds, made our first docking a bit touch and go, but we managed to do it with no damage to boats, pier or pride.

8/2/01, Putting Mandisa to Bed
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Safely docked, we readied Mandisa for a sleep to last several weeks. She got us here safe and sound, in spite of our lack of experience. She tolerated our fumbling and mistakes with genteel grace, and I owed it to her to snug her well with dual spring lines in addition to the fore and aft mooring lines. That done, we covered her up with her custom canvas cover and bid her farewell for the long drive back to Phoenix.

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