Project Changabang: end of Volume I

If this adventure was a book, we’d have a few chapters under our belt already, maybe in this order: I Genesis, II Research, III Finding a vessel, IV Buying Changabang, V Shipping Changabang to the Pacific.

Making contact

Last Friday we took possession of Changabang in the Port of San Diego. It was a long night. I had arrived the day before and met with Lee to reconnect after the 2018 SHTP and discuss the next days. I’ll admit that I was anxious and may not have been the friendliest guest. With the very little information that we had received about the discharge of Changabang we started making plans. Lee would drop my at the terminal gates and would go back to his boat Morning Star to motor down to the port terminal. Lee was going to rally help from his buddy Captain Chuck.

As Star Lima made her entry in San Diego Bay we had been told by SSA Marine to show up at 5pm. I hired an escort service to be escorted from the Port terminal gate to Star Lima, where we waited for Customs to release the ship. At around 6pm we (me and another hired skipper) were allowed access to our cargo. With trepidation I went over to Changabang and was quickly reassured that the loading in Antwerp and been done really well. The deck and everything was filthy and covered with a sticky, brown grime. Luckily the batteries looked like they would have enough charge to start the engine.

Waiting game

During this little inspection, stevedores had started unloading containers. Next they prepared the catamaran to be offloaded. In a way it was good that we were second as it gave us an opportunity to see how things would unfold. Now it’s 10:15pm and the stevedores go to lunch, with a planned return time of midnight! I had been outside in the cool wind for over 5 hours now and decided to as the crew of Star Lima if I could wait inside. They were very friendly and even treated me to pizza, a drink and a charger for my phone!

Midnight rang and the stevedores started working on Changabang. Because San Diego is a small port they don’t have as good equipment as would have been preferred. It felt like they were basically singing it and interfered many times when things were going in the wrong direction.

Welcome to the Pacific

Finally Changabang was in the sling and I was sent to the docks to find a ladder along the concrete to board Morning Star. We did just that; Lee motored slowly close enough for me to grab his shrouds and step aboard. Next we motored slowly to Changabang to put aboard. After a few interesting maneuvers Lee backed into Changabang’s bow, where I was able to grab the headstay and switch boat.

My mission was then to start the engine and depart, which I did. The Volvo Penta started within 10 seconds, without glowing the injection chambers (I had not seen the button, silly me!). But Changabang was not fully in the water and when I was look for exhaust water there wasn’t any. A little overly excited I yelled at the stevedores, now standing high on Star Lima (4 story building), to further drop the boat in the water. Finally, we had water coming out.

Now it was time to release Changabang from her slings and move on. I knew of a problem with gear shift lever and of course as soon as we were free from the slings, I couldn’t engage forward gear. Thanks to the previous owner’s instructions I knew how to fix this but now Changabang was drifting towards Star Lima’s hull. I threw a line to Lee who was standing by and we were off on a slow tow. A few minutes later I was in gear and released the towing line! Boom: Changabang is sailing in the Pacific!

The next day

It was past 3:30am when we were docked at the SGYC and headed for hotel Morning Star for a well deserved rest.

Saturday morning Lee and I did good work of cleaning Changabang and making her look nice again, just in time as she started to attract interested visitors. Unfortunately, as we really wanted to leave Monday/Tuesday, it was necessary to limit conversations. Saturday evening, Lee had arranged for an informal presentation of this adventure. That’s when I was able to share more about my intentions with SGYC members. The club was very welcoming and kind, and a good night was had for all.

Rob joins the party

Sunday Rob joined and added great energy and experience to the preparation team. We did quite a few things: cleaning of course (5 hours on my knees scrubbing), reset the bowsprit, reset the lazy Jack’s, reset the mainsail, repair a cam cleat, fix a batt car (missing ball bearings), a good engine check, adjust shore power plugs and charge batteries (we think that they’re healthy!), tape the spare battens, fix a deck level nav light, provision, refuel, and more small jobs, which continued unabated until Monday evening.

En route!

Tuesday morning we felt ready to depart and the weather was cooperating. So we did!

We motored out of the San Diego channel. As we exited the channel, we hoisted the mainsail to the third reef and sailed like that for a while, with the wind astern, between 13-18 kts. When I was ready for it we went to the second reef. Then again later we went to the first reef. It was a full moon. Crew was great, we hoisted the Genoa as wind was dwindling down. And finally the engine came back live.

First landfall

I’ll skip through the rest of the day only to say that we made a safe landfall in Channel Islands Harbor, where a friendly slip was awaiting Changabang. It was really perfect to have Lee and Rob aboard for this first trip.

Lee returned to his home and Rob did as much. I slept on Changabang. I’d be omitting an important part of this story if I was not talking about Ollie, who’s right next to me. He’s an sailor with tons of miles under his belt, including racing boats like Changabang and work for JP Mouligne and Cray Valley. He and his wife were super friendly, invited me for dinner (which I obliged) and for a sleep on their super comfortable Morgan boat (which I did not). In fact, I have been invited again!

Thursday work

Today I did small jobs again: did a bit of shopping at West Marine, replaced worn out shock cords on decka, addes missing spinnaker sheet retrieving line, replaced third reef tack block, replaced chafed handhold lines inside, re-adjusted lazy jacks.

As the day progresses one of my buddies from the Clipper race picked on my Facebook post and showed up to reconnect and see the boat. I really liked my time with Kathi during the Clipper training. She’s so much fun to be around. As we brought up the subject of bread, she came back with a baguette! I love boating, such a great community.

Change of plans?

One thing I learned from Skip today is that there is now a record to beat:

“Here’s one for the record books and for PJ to challenge: The World Sailing Speed Record Council has just confirmed a record time for sailing solo around the world westabout in a 40-foot boat. The elapsed time of 258 days, 22 hours, 24 minutes, an average speed of 3.48 knots, was set from June 2019 to February 2020 by Bill Hatfield sailing Brisbane, Australia and return via the Canary Islands and Cape Horn on his Northshore 38 L’EAU COMMOTION. It was Hatfield’s 3rd attempt.

Bill lived on strict rations at sea. “For fresh water I had a desalinator, and my daily diet was a third of a tin of beans, a tin of tuna, 100 grams of rice and flour and oats, and 150 grams of milk powder.”

Bill Hatfield is 81. At one point he fell overboard without a tether. But managed to grab the toe rail, work his way aft, and climb back aboard using his water generator as a foot step.”

Good! It means that now I know it’s possible!

Friday departure?

I’m considering departing from Channel Islands Harbor tomorrow. I’ll look at the forecasts tomorrow again. It could be a bit of a stretch as a second sail to go solo. I need to think this through.

I’ll post this now and will follow up with another post with decisions, maybe.

Author: Skipper

Wannabe circumnavigator.

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