I’ve waited a while to write and post this entry because I wanted a little time to process what I did.  The long and short of it is that I don’t own the Excalibur 26 anymore.  I sold her.

She hasn’t vacated her slip yet and I have driven down to Alamitos Bay to check on her.  The new owner, a man named Mark, was enthusiastic about the purchase and I believe she’ll be in good hands with him.

Like many boat owners, I was unable to find enough time to spend on the boat and in the water.  Like many automotive Service Managers, I was without the required energy to spend a day on the boat on the few days that I actually had time.  So, for the first time in a number of years, I am without a boat of some kind.

It’s tough to gybe in a howling wind if you don’t have a boat.

I do still have my Goldwing, though, and have a number of half-day, full-day and 24 hour rides on the horizon.  I’ll be posting about those here.

My riding partner and I last completed an Iron Butt ride in April 2013 – a ride of a little over 1500 miles. 

When riding that distance in a short a period of time, the long stretches of miles in which nothing happens is completely erased from the mind.  What sticks out are the highlights that make the ride memorable.

We left in beautiful Southern California weather but two hours later were fighting 30+ mph headwinds in the Central Valley.  Our planned fuel stops were abandoned because the wind cut the fuel mileage on each of our bikes by 10-15 miles per gallon and added an additional, unplanned stop on the north leg.

North of Sacramento, with the winds finally dying down, I was startled by a pop from between my legs.  My fuel tank had buckled inward from the vacuum created when a pinched vent line let no incoming air into the tank to displace the fuel that was being sucked out by the fuel pump.  A fuel stop planned for 15 minutes doubled in time as I removed my fuel tank at the filling station and corrected the vent line routing.  (For those of you astute enough to know that the fuel tank on the Goldwing is plastic and located below the rider, preventing such an occurrence, I was on a different bike for this ride.  Fortunately, some carefully applied compressed air to the tank popped out the dent after the ride was completed).

We experienced our first cold weather while climbing on Interstate 5 on the way to the summit of the mountains west of Mount Shasta.  My grip heaters and extra layers helped, but we shivered all the way to Grants Pass nonetheless.  Once there we calculated our time and found that we could still be back in Westminster on time since the wind would either be reduced or on our backs on the way back.

The return trip began well.  We made it 250 miles before I led us into a radar trap and we were both detained and ticketed by two California Highway Patrol troopers.  They were initially preachy, but mellowed considerably when both our papers checked out and they realized that we weren’t a threat to them.  Both officers had questions about the ride but mostly just shook their heads.  That seems to be a pretty common response.  It’s the only ticket I’ve gotten while on a motorcycle.  The last one in a car was over twenty years before then.

The last six hours had few highlights.  We stopped for gas a couple times.  I fought sleep in the southern part of the Central Valley, we hit traffic after midnight on the grapevine and a complete freeway closure six miles before the end of the ride.  We had ridden 1509 miles in 23 hours 40 minutes, beating our goal of 24 hours by 20 minutes.

I’m asked why I ride these rides.  Usually the person asking is almost angry because they don’t see the point.  They see no reward for the amount of risk.  I can only tell them that I ride these rides because I can’t play football anymore.  There is no league for out-of-shape 47 year old Service Managers.  My knees and back and shoulders couldn’t take it anymore.

I do, however, miss the physical and psychological challenges in lining up across from an opponent and beating them.  Sometimes you beat an opponent by being stronger or faster.  Sometimes you beat an opponent by being smarter.  I get the same level of satisfaction beating the clock on a tough ride that I used to get playing football.

I really enjoyed the time I spent with the Excalibur.  Owning it allowed me to become acquainted with Charles Olcott and Neil Fletcher and Neil Porter.  I traded e-mails with Webb Chiles.  I learned a lot about the history of sailboat manufacturing in the 60s in Southern California.

I’ll likely own another someday.

I was never a poor weather sailor, though.  I never intentionally took the Excalibur out into storms and searched out frothing blue water to crash over the bow.  I never literally sailed through a turn with gale force winds on my stern.

‘Gybing in a howling wind’ has always been a metaphor.

Everyone should find their wind to gybe in.  Risk gives meaning to what you do.  The level will vary from person to person.  What I do scares the members of my family sometimes.  Things other people do regularly terrify me.  What it is doesn’t matter.  How benign or extreme it is doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that is raises your heartbeat and takes your breath away….temporarily, of course.

‘Gybing in a howling wind’ will remain the title of my blog as it transitions from a sailing blog to a riding blog.  Imagine, instead of a sailing boat, a lone rider, leaning into a desert wind that is pushing across the highway, the rider struggling to remain in his lane, riding westbound, while the sun settles down into storm clouds only minutes before being enveloped in the darkness of a night without the moon.

The Galley Is Out…..

For the last two years I have been trying to finalize the cabin configuration I wanted in the Excalibur.  I don’t consider my boat to be anything other than a day-sailer or weekender.  I’ve never used the icebox.  I have a cooler.  I don’t need the sink but it does work nicely to hold cleaning supplies.  The drawers are useful, but as I found out today, most of the things in them aren’t really needed for the kind of sailing I do.

So, I’ve thought it through and settled on the following design for my new cabin layout:

Dinette -- Cinverts to Single Berth

I’ll build a convertible single berth in the place of the quarter berth and galley and add storage shelves to both sides along with a dedicated radio and electrical panel on the starboard side.  The far forward section of the single berth will include a removable rack to hold my cooler in place even if we’re healed over.  The hanging locker will have three shelves added to it for my tools, extra hardware and rigging gear, and the life preserver bag.  In front of the hanging locker will be a small magazine rack to hold my document book.

Alex and I went down to the boat with the tools I’d figured I needed early this afternoon and got right to work.  I planned to use my Dremel tool with wood/fiberglass/plastic cutter to cut the fiberglass strips holding the galley to the hull while Alex held the shop vac as close to the working area as he could.  We were prepared with masks and glasses but I figured we’d still get enough fiberglass to make things uncomfortable.

This worked well….for about five minutes.  I had cut about 10% of the area I’d need to cut when the Dremel started blowing out smoke and seized up dead.  Even after we unplugged it it continued to smoke.  It wasn’t coming back.

Because I didn’t have a back up plan for a not so old Dremel that died prematurely, we had to run home and get my grinder with the thin cutting disk.  We returned to the boat and continued my plan.  It worked pretty well but there were several areas that were glassed in that I couldn’t see previously and that I couldn’t get the grinder to, so we improvised.

I used the radial saw to cut the face and aft side off the galley and then we literally pulled it apart.  There was a quite a bit of termite damage to the areas that were made of plywood rather than hardwood and some of it literally fell apart.  We found some live termites and killed them before removing all of the wood from the boat.  Some of the plywood in the aft quarter berth is pretty soft, so it will have to be removed and replaced as well.  I will be sure to glass in any wood I use that isn’t termite resistant hardwood to prevent this from happening again.

When we left the house I told Alex that we wouldn’t be leaving the boat tonight until the galley was out of the boat.  As it turned out, we were done well before it got dark and actually got to walk around the marina a little before we left.  Alex decided we could sell our house and cars and buy the 50’ Beneteau slipped in the big boat section.  I gave him a choice between the Beneteau or In-N-Out Burger for dinner.

I had a double-double.

Heroes to Zeroes…..

Saturday was one of those days when everything just goes right.  I’m still mapping out each step to take to pull the galley out of the Excalibur, and think I have a good checklist put together to do it, but I want a second person with me to assist by vacuuming up the wood and fiberglass shavings as we cut it out of the hull.  Alex is the logical choice for the second person, but he had plans on Saturday morning, so I took a little ride.

I haven’t mentioned it much here because I consider this a sailing blog, but in the spirit of giving up a little bit about myself every once in a while, I’ll talk briefly about my other hobby.  I ride motorcycles.  I commute on them, tour, and ride for pleasure.

A while back I began coaching Pop Warner football and coached the line for four seasons with the team that Alex played on.  Getting back into football at a level way beyond that of a casual fan awakened a desire to compete that had been pretty well dormant for the twenty years or so since I had played .  There aren’t many venues available for mid-40s men to resume a career playing football and my body wouldn’t last very long back on a field taking and giving hits, so I had to find something else.

It turns out a guy can still compete against himself using a motorcycle.

The Ironbutt Organization – – recognizes individual achievements in long distance riding and organizes rides in which participants gain points by efficiently navigating and riding from point to point.  I got involved a few years ago when a friend and I rode from Westminster, California to Benson, Arizona and back in about nineteen hours.  That first ride totaled 1078 miles.  I completed it on a 2006 Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom that I owned at the time.  Rides start at 1000 miles or more in 24 hours or less and grow from there.  Another popular ride length is 1500 miles and riders can complete it in 36 hours, or 24 hours if the rider can get the right combination of route, weather, luck and drive.  The rides can be as short as a single 24 hour period or as long as ten or more days for the really advanced riders.

The rides are physically challenging, but the mental aspect is much tougher.  The rider has to stay on point and continue to push on mile after mile.  Preparation is very important and most riders know exactly where they’ll stop for fuel, food and rest as the ride progresses.  A few days before I leave for a ride I begin to wonder how tough it’ll be and will often think back eight or ten hours in the current day and wonder if I could ride for that time straight.  I’ll wonder if I can do it.

Once I’m on the move, though, I don’t think about the total time on the bike.  I push from one fuel stop to the next, never thinking ahead further than a single stop, usually not more than three hours away.  The first third of the ride is exciting and relatively easy.  The middle third can be the toughest, and usually the last third is spent talking to myself to stay alert, but having an end in sight gives the motivation necessary to push through to the end.

I’ve completed multiple 1000 mile rides and one 1500 miles ride in 24 hours – some solo and some with another rider.  I sold my DL1000 shortly after the first ride to purchase a more touring-oriented motorcycle and completed a 1000 and the 1500 mile ride on it, a 2012 Kawasaki Voyager.  After I abandoned a subsequent 1500 mile ride on the Voyager, I decided that in spite of it being a nice bike, it wasn’t the right bike.  I traded it in on my current ride, a 2013 Honda Goldwing.  It is the right bike.  It does everything I want it to do and is by far my favorite bike.

In early June I’m planning to ride to Denver, Colorado for two days of Lexus meetings.  The distance from Westminster to Denver is just over 1000 miles.

So, with a few hours to kill on Saturday morning, I mounted my camera to the bike and took off for a little ride through Long Beach, up to Torrance Airport, around Palos Verdes, through San Pedro, across the Vincent Thomas and Gerald Desmond Bridges, and used the 710 and 405 freeways to get back home in Westminster.  See the video below for an accelerated recap of my ride.  Don’t blink.


2013 Goldwing–for rides short or long


Alex got home in the early part of the afternoon and I asked him if he wanted to get in a sail that afternoon.  He said, “Sure.”

I explained to him that I wanted for him to be on the tiller as much as possible and start getting a feel for what the boat was doing as we changed direction and sail trim and how it affected the experience of being on the helm.  A year ago he would have said that he didn’t want to, that he was good with just going along for the ride and working a winch a little.  Now, at 15, he was good with controlling the boat on his own.

We worked as a team getting the Excalibur ready to sail, and were ready to back out of the slip less than 30 minutes after arriving at Alamitos Bay.  A slip neighbor came over and asked us if we wanted him to help back us out.  I was happy for his help and Alex steered us up the slip row out towards the channel.  On the way out we had to dodge a radio-controlled sailboat whose owner didn’t realize we were approaching his little boat.

We gave him right-of-way because he was under sail alone and we were being pushed out by the Tohatsu.

In the channel, we dodged a number of one-design boats heading back into the Long Beach Yacht Club slips after their race and once clear, raised our main, released the topping lift, unfurled the genoa and shut down the outboard.

The weather last week up until Friday evening was miserable.  Most of Southern California was near or above 100 degrees and Santa Ana winds blew from the north across the desert and into the bowl that houses most of Los Angeles and Orange County.

The combo of the hot weather and winds created the perfect environment for the local pyromaniacs to crawl out of their basements and set fires.  Dozens of homes were lost in Southern California and San Diego County had more fire activity than they’ve seen in a long time.  Most of the fires were set intentionally.

On Friday night, though, the winds shifted and started coming in from the west and the temperature dropped dramatically.  The west winds gave us an opportunity to tack out of the harbor and into the Catalina Channel.  We would have been able to sail a single tack for a long time, tack once and return to the harbor downwind, but that wouldn’t have given Alex much of an opportunity to practice different points of sail, so we worked on tacks, the occasional gybe, and made our way back to Alamitos Bay.

Alex on the tiller:


We decided to check up on the Excaliburs we discovered last year and work our way through the bay.  Because the weather was so nice, the surface was covered by kayakers and people on stand-up paddleboards.  Several times we had to tack away from one of them in order to avoid running them over but still maintain some type of wind that would allow us forward progress.

We tacked onto the course used by one of the Gondola pilots and crept up behind him.  Our speed was greater than his.  The driver continually looked over his left shoulder, growing increasingly concerned.  We tried to acknowledge that we knew he was there, but the sails and rigging blocked enough of his view, that I don’t think he did.

When we were close enough for him to admire the newly-finished wood on the Excalibur, we tacked away again, setting us up for a line close to the dark green Excalibur.  It continues to be neglected.  The tarps that were fairly fresh the last time we saw her were beginning to shred allowing loose strands to orbit above the cabin in the breeze.  It did have a few features that I didn’t notice the last time I went looking for it.  Typically, the Excalibur has a single thru-hull above the waterline on the stern for the bilge pump exit.  This Excalibur had two.  In addition, it also had what looked like an engine exhaust port very low on the stern, barely above the waterline.  To my knowledge, no Excaliburs were equipped or fitted with an inboard engine.  Could this be one?

The navy blue Excalibur remained tied to the same dock as before, only this time it was covered with additional tarps.  It does not appear that it has been used since we saw it last, either.

The sun was falling to the horizon and we decided to head in.  I asked Alex if he wanted to sail to the slip rather than lower the sails and motor in.  He didn’t really understand the significance of us doing that, so he shrugged his shoulders and said he was fine with that.  We furled in the genoa and made our way to the slip row under main sail alone.

The breeze was about 5 knots, steady, and directly on our stern.  With the main sheeted way out, we crept up to the entrance of our slip row.  The same group of men that were piloting the radio-controlled sailboat earlier had their little boat out again at the mouth of the slips but this time saw us coming and steered their boat well clear of us.

I had told Alex that since we wouldn’t have an effective way of stopping, it was important that he be ready to jump off the starboard deck onto the dock and get us slowed down enough to prevent us from crashing into the dock head.  Alex stood up on the cabin top and one of the men gave him a “thumbs up” as we passed by them.  A little further down the row two men were in the cockpit of another sailboat and one hit the other in the arm and said, “Hey.  They’re sailing in.  They’re sailing in.”

I told Alex that I would be turning the boat from port to starboard several times to de-power the main and create drag to slow us down a little before turning into the slip.  He nodded that he understood and held onto the outer starboard shroud, ready to jump off as soon as we turned in to the slip.  I made the turn in and released the main sheet to further de-power the main.  Alex jumped off the deck and had us stopped almost immediately.  He walked us forward and we tied the Excalibur to the dock with the lifelines we had left on the cleats.

One of the spectators walked over and said, “Very impressive.  Nice job, boys.  I’d’a slammed it into the end wall.  Very impressive.”

“I’m sure that wouldn’t have happened,” I replied.  “ But, thanks.”

With the boat tied down and the main still sheeted way out to port, we readied to lower the sail.  When I raised the sail, I’d coiled the halyard line and hung it from a mast cleat.  I partially uncoiled the line and pulled the main down a little to begin flaking it over the boom.  Alex was trying to do as much of it as he could, but because the sails are still relatively new, they are very stiff, and don’t flake very well.

Alex struggled and asked if we could switch places.  I began arranging from the clew and Alex pulled down on the luff.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw the still-coiled halyard begin making its way up the mast.

“Whoa.  Stop,” I said to Alex.

It was too late.  The coil was several feet over our heads.

“Oh boy,” I said.  I looked around us to see how many of the previously impressed spectators were pointing at us and laughing.  None appeared to notice yet.

“Quick, Alex.  Get down in the cabin and grab the pole with the hook on the end.”

He couldn’t find it at first and I attempted to look casual as people walked by on the sidewalk 60 feet to port.  One of the men with the radio-controlled sailboat was making his way towards us.  Alex was still below and I made eye contact with the man as he got closer, willing myself not to look up and give away what had happened to us.

He might not have noticed.

“You guys looked good out there.  The boat’s real pretty,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said.  “It was a great afternoon.”

He walked away and I thought I was in the clear until he turned around.

“If you need to borrow my pole to retrieve that halyard, let me know…”

A Growing List of Projects……

We haven’t sailed much this winter.  It wasn’t a matter of cold weather like much of the rest of the country.  We were busy with other things and on the few days when I‘d actually planned on taking the Excalibur out, either the wind was dead calm or a last minute problem popped up that prevented me from going.

Not sailing often didn’t equate to neglect in the slip, however.  Several things got done.  All of the Excalibur’s external wood got refinished – sanding, more sanding, bleaching and then multiple coats of Cetol.  New halyards, new jib blocks and cars, a rebuild of the Guzzler bilge pump, and a new windex after birds and/or high winds made a mess of my then current one, all got done.

She is ready to sail.  I can go anytime I want, but the list of things that need to be done seems to grow longer.  I want to relocate my battery.  In doing so, I’ll want to address a few wiring concerns and will probably end up ripping up the majority of the wiring in the process.

There is some evidence of termites in my galley wood that gives me a good excuse to rip out the galley and replace it with an extension of the quarter berth.  I do not use the galley as a galley so much.  The icebox houses the radio I use down at the boat when it’s not in use.  The sink houses a mixture of cleaning products.  The galley drawers hold a hodge podge of plastic and silverware, a pocket knife, small supplies, extra hardware and sailing rig stuff (basically three junk drawers).  It takes up a lot of space below and I want it to go.  I’ve spent time trying to put together a check list of what it’ll take to remove it and get it out of the companionway.  So far I’ve found that it is both glassed in and screwed in.  On the one day I had the whole day to remove it, I went sailing instead.

My lifelines could use replacing.  I could take them down to West Marine to have a set made up using the current ones as templates, or I could go another way and make my own.

A previous, temporary, next door slip neighbor use to sail single-handedly every time he went out.  I never saw him go out with a group.  During the summer he would leave work at 1600, drive down to his boat, exit the harbor by 1630 and be back as the sun set.  He did this almost every day and he and I had several talks about his techniques for solo sailing.  He felt that having people with him got in his way.  He could perform any maneuver on his own and he even made docking on his own look easy.

We talked a lot but never sailed together on his boat or on the Excalibur.  He wanted to race against me, but it never worked out and after a while his slip, in another basin that was under construction, was completed, and one day I got there and he was gone.  I haven’t seen him since.

The one item he had that made single-handing easier was a tiller lock.  I tried lashing my tiller with little success and so began looking for a tiller lock.  I researched several different ones and purchased the Tiller Clutch.  I installed it on the tiller but then broke a brass bolt when re-installing the tiller on the boat, so couldn’t try it out yesterday.

I’m also planning on setting-up a sheet to tiller steering system to use at times.  More stuff to do.

So, my list shrinks and grows and shrinks and grows.  That’ll continue.

As I packed up my things yesterday to leave the boat, I noticed movement in the water near me.  A mother porpoise and her baby swam up the slip row, reached the Excalibur, then turned around and headed back into the main channel.  Seeing them regularly off the coast never gets old, but seeing a pair casually swimming up our slip row was extra cool.

A couple pictures from yesterday – the Excalibur looking forward to summer.



Webb Chiles Responds

As promised, Webb Chiles got back to me when he returned from his break in Florida.  He is preparing his Moore 24 for his sixth circumnavigation and plans to leave San Diego without fanfare or media coverage of any type sometime in May or so.

His Moore 24, Gannet, is a fast, well built boat, but her cabin is smaller, much smaller in fact, then the Excalibur 26 cabin.  Because he will have to provision for a month or more at sea without promise of re-supply, his tiny cabin will likely be organized like a 3D puzzle.  If you’ve read about any of his previous voyages, he survives on little when necessary and he is certainly not outfitting with many of the extravagances that a cruising liveaboard might have on board.

I will post updates on his trip as they become available.  In the meantime, if you aren’t familiar with his travels and writing, spend some time on his website.  Much of his writing, including some of his books, is available for free.  I’d encourage anyone who’s visiting there to find something to buy on the site to support his ability to sail on.

His writing style retells his experiences through the senses involved.  He creates a vivid picture of what happened and is very visual in nature, but also combines the sounds and smells that a lone voyager may experience.  In the absence of the sensory overload of the modern world, it’s the simple things we overlook in an urban environment that Webb reminds us of.  One finds humor in his writings, usually dry, usually an inside joke that a limited audience will get, very clever, sometimes ironic, but definitely funny.

His Excalibur 26 was only his for about two years.  He starts…..

“Hello, Todd,…

“Of my Excalibur, as is stated in ‘downsizing’, I took delivery new at Jack London Square in January 1967 and kept her in a slip at Berkeley until August when the woman who was then a part of my life sailed her to San Diego, with a single stop in Santa Barbara.  The Excalibur, which I never named, was my first boat and that my first coastal passage.  The bolt through the mast securing the spreaders broke off Point Conception, causing one of them to dangle down ineffectively, but we made it to Santa Barbara without losing the mast.

“She and I lived aboard for a year and a half in San Diego’s Mission Bay.  In fact at Seaforth Marina on the other side of Quivira Basin where GANNET, my Moore 24, is presently and from which I will sail next month for Hawaii to begin what I hope will be my sixth circumnavigation.

“After living aboard for almost a year, I ordered an Ericson 35 and traded the Excalibur in on her.  That would have been in late 1969.

“I never raced the boat.  When I go sailing I want to think only of the wind and sea, not other people.  I did sail her a lot along the southern California coast and out to the islands and learned a great deal from her.

“I don’t recall the hull number and have no knowledge of what became of her.  However, an Excalibur 26 moved into Driscoll Marina a few months ago, and I was pleased to see one up close again.  They are pretty boats whose looks have stood the test of time.

“Wishing you continued joy of sailing.



Gannet, The Moore 24 Chiles will sail during his upcoming circumnavigation.  Additional information about the boat and its outfitting is available at

Webb Chiles, First Boats, and Selecting Sails

Webb Chiles – multi-circumnavigator, writer, adventurer – used to own an Excalibur 26.  It was, in fact, his first boat, purchased in the Bay Area in January 1967.  It’s mentioned on his website — — and in some of his writings.

I found an article he wrote titled “Downsizing,” and could relate to it for a couple reasons.  One, he owned the same boat I did.  The same model year.  Hell, I could now own the boat he purchased new (probably not, but cool to think).  Two, I gave considerable thought to, and lost a lot of sleep when, trying to decide what size sail I was going to have built to install on my furler.  I’ll address the furler later, in a separate post, because I’ve come to love and hate it for different reasons.

I e-mailed Webb and asked for permission to quote from “Downsizing” and asked him if he wouldn’t mind sharing any of his thoughts, experiences, or stories involving his Excalibur.  I didn’t expect a quick answer but was very pleasantly surprised when he replied the next morning.  He explained that he was in Florida but that he would respond more fully when he returned home and said I could quote from “Downsizing” on my blog.

He starts out…”In late January 1967 near Oakland, California’s Jack London Square, I took delivery of my first boat, a new Excalibur 26, which was a kind of mini-Cal 40, the hot race boat of the time.  I was twenty-six years old, and it was a day I had been dreaming of for literally half my life,   I had taught myself how to sail the way I taught myself most things:  by reading and then doing.  I thought I knew how to sail; but this would be the first time I’d ever been the one in charge of the boat, as well as the first time I ever sailed alone.

“I was in a word, innocent, and the salesman had taken advantage of that innocence and sold me a lot of stuff I later discovered I didn’t need, including a 170% genoa.  For some reason the 170 and the mainsail were the only sails on the boat that day.  The working jib wasn’t ready, and neither were my outboard motor or winch handles.  Across the years this is beyond tolerance or belief; but such was my excitement that I pushed the boat away from the dock anyway to sail her to the slip I had rented at Berkeley Marina.

“The distance was about nine miles:  three west tacking out the channel between Alameda Island and Oakland; three northwest under the Bay Bridge; then three back east to the marina.  Even though the wind was moderate for the Bay area, short tacking that genoa without winch handles was hard work.

“I still remember the joy I felt when I cleared the end of the channel and was finally out in the chop of San Francisco Bay.  I was sailing, sailing my own boat, and I didn’t have to pull the jib across again for almost an hour.   My hands were bloody on the tiller, but I didn’t care.

“After a final tack, I was able to turn downwind for the marina.  My slip too was downwind.  I had expected to be entering it with the outboard, and decided to lower the mainsail outside the marina and sail in under jib alone.  Faced with the same situation forty years later, I’d do it the same way.

“I don’t recall the square footage of the genoa.  Certainly it was considerably less than the genoa on my current 37’ sloop, THE HAWKE OF TUONELA.  But it seemed enormous as I kept easing the sheet, trying to spill wind and speed as I turned into the slip.  The bow did hit the dock, but not too hard, before I leapt off and secured dock lines.  After I lowered the flogging sail–this was before furling gear–I just sat in the cockpit and looked at my boat.  It was a great, great day.  Bloody hands and all.

“I learned a lot from the Excalibur.  Reading can only take you so far.  Enough so that seven months later I made my first coastal passage when the woman who was then a part of my life and I sailed out the Golden Gate and south to San Diego.”

When I contacted Ullman Sails to build a new head and main sail for my boat, I was still slipped in Dana Point.  Their initial recommendation was to go with a 150 genoa based on the generally light winds experienced off the Dana Point coast.  I knew, however, that I would eventually relocate up the coast to Long Beach where the winds are almost always stronger.  I also knew based on my experience with the Excalibur to that point that she sailed better, and just as fast, with the smaller sails in my inventory.

Webb continues,”… Among my earliest lessons was that a 170% genoa is not much use on San Francisco Bay.  It is probably not much use anywhere unless you are racing, and not often even then.  I’ve never owned another.

“My next two boats, an Ericson 35 and EGREGIOUS, the Ericson 37 on which I completed my first circumnavigation via Cape Horn, had only 150% jibs.  EGREGIOUS’s was cutter rigged, so the 150% wasn’t even a genoa, but a jib top, with the clew high off the deck.

“Spending more than three months south of 40º South on the first leg of that voyage, I didn’t use the 150% as much as I did a smaller working jib; and when I bought my next boat of ‘normal’ size, the S & S 36 which I named RESURGAM, I ordered a 135% genoa, even though by then I trusted and installed furling gear, which made handling headsails much easier.

“In between EGREGIOUS and RESURGAM, I sailed an 18’ Drascombe Lugger, which was yawl rigged and had furling gear on her 30 square foot jib.  I wondered about that until I got in bad weather in her out at sea and learned how useful it was to be able to reduce sail quickly without having to move my 156 pounds to the bow of a boat that displaced only 880 pounds.

“RESURGAM was the first boat on which I had a good instrument system.  She was, as have been all my boats except for CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, a 1970s IOR design, with fin keel and spade rudder, big foretriangle and smaller high aspect ratio mainsail.

“Over the years and miles of the circumnavigation and a half that I did in RESURGAM, the instruments helped me fine tune her and verified what I had sensed on EGREGIOUS, that as the wind picked up, I could keep furling the jib without losing speed.  In fact, boat speed often increased as RESURGAM heeled less and came back on her lines.

“Although THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is only a foot longer than RESURGAM, she is noticeably larger, with five more feet of waterline, almost two more feet of beam, and a much taller mast.  Having found RESURGAM often overpowered by a 135% genoa, I ordered only a 130% for HAWKE.

“Obviously there is a trend here, and it doesn’t have anything to do with my getting older.  The first part of the equation is that I kept finding that my boats didn’t need a big jib going to windward in anything more than the lightest breeze; and the second part is that I frequently set spinnakers off the wind–conventional symmetrical ones with a pole on EGREGIOUS, and pole-less asymmetricals on RESURGAM and THE HAWKE OF TUONELA–and snuffer bags had made spinnakers easier to handle.      Two years ago I started using a Facnor gennaker furler, which has revolutionized how I sail.  Knowing I can quickly roll up  asymmetrical spinnakers from the cockpit if the wind increases, I set them now more than I ever did and use my jib as a reaching sail less when the wind is below fifteen knots.  Above fifteen, unless the wind is from dead astern, THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is near hull speed under working sail.

“I’ve sailed about 25,000 miles in the past eighteen months, completing my fifth circumnavigation, so my 130% jib is due for an honorable retirement.  THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s next jib will be only a 110% or maybe even a 100%.

“It’s taken more than forty years, but I think the trend has reached an end.”

Once I had decided on the use of a furler, sail selection seemed to be made easier.  I asked Ullman to construct a set of sails for me that were a little on the heavier, stronger side, even though I knew that they would not be the fastest sails I could put on my boat.  I settled on a 130%, figuring the winds off Long Beach would allow me the use of this size the most, and reasoned that with the more heavily constructed sails, I could furl off some of my head sail in conditions that demanded reefing, and still make it back into Alamitos Bay.

The heavy 130 does not do particularly well in light wind.  It takes a good puff to fill and shape the sail, but if the winds approach 10 knots, the Excalibur and I move along just fine.  I find that in winds of 15-20 knots, not uncommon as the breeze rounds Point Fermin, my sail combo works best.  When it gets above 25 knots, I’m definitely reefed and furled.

Downwind is a little tough as well.  Getting my 130 to fill in light winds is almost fruitless.  I need a good 10 knots to shape the heavy 130 and going wing to wing is only successful some of the time as I don’t have a pole to push the 130 out to catch as much of the breeze as possible.

I don’t want a light set of racing sails that will have to be replaced in a year or two, even if they mean I’ll be a knot or so faster.  If I wanted that, if I could afford that, I’d be on a different boat.  I rarely find the need for a sail bigger than the one I have installed on the furler.  In my mind, bigger is not better.  In my experience, an easy handling sailboat on a smaller sail is a better sail than fighting a large one all day, particularly when sailing single-handed.

In the meantime, I’ll sail.  I’ll get passed by some.  I’ll pass others.