McNish Classic Yacht Race
August 2006

Susanne and I continue our 25th wedding anniversary with a sailing race/cruise/training vacation.  Susanne had read about a sailing adventure hosted by Horizons West Adventures in the newspaper travel section.  The article reported that the cruise would be a six day adventure on board a classic schooner from home port in Long Beach to the Channel Islands and then to Channel Islands Harbor to participate in the August 2006 McNish Classic Yacht Race.  The trip seemed like a perfect choice to find out if we enjoyed sailing and continue our quest to retire on board a cruising yacht.

We were pleasantly surprised.

We arrived early on Tuesday to find the crew loading gear and readying the boat for our cruise.  From the outside it looked somewhat small for six passengers and four crew.  The boat is vintage 1939 first sailing in 1946.  The boat has circled the world and lived on both U.S. coasts over the years.  The boats name is Dirigo II.

I quote from Dirigo II Operating Manual:

The Dirigo II is a 72-foot Alden designed double top masted schooner.  She was ordered in 1939 by Charles van Sicklan of Michigan, and built by Goudy and Stevens yard in East Boothbay Maine.  John Alden was tasked to design a boat capable of circumnavigation, capable of sailing in any ocean, any weather.  She was completed and launched in 1946.

Dirigo II has been around the world one and a half times.  Her second owner, Jim Crawford captained the circumnavigation.  She was in the pacific throughout most of the 1950's (she was in the 1953 Trans Pacific race), and returned through Panama about 1961.

Dirigo II is 72-feet long including the 8-foot long bowsprit.  Her length on-deck is 60-feet.  Her beam is 15-feet 8-inches.  She weighs about 72,000-lbs.  Her ballast is 27,000-lbs of lead externally fitted to the keel.

I can report that she is in good condition with all equipment operational.  She has had good care with many structural repairs over the years that maintain her strength.  She is a solid yacht.

I took a few photos around the boat to show more detail...

The bowsprit and jib sails.

Stays and pins on the cap rail.  Notice the hatches on the cabin top.

This shot is looking forward along the port deck.  Notice that the sails are topped with gaff poles.  Those little rectangular things in the deck are skylights to the cabins below.

This view is looking up the main mast.  The spreaders are home to the radar antenna.

The picture below shows how the sail is attached to the main mast.  The round wood pieces skate along the mast as the sail is raised.  The forked end is the tip of the gaff boom.  Halyards pull on the top of the gaff which in turn pulls the sail up.

The halyards are tied off to pins located on the side stays.  The lines are tied to this location when there is no load.  The lines are tied to pins down on the cap rail when carrying a load.

We finished loading, parked the car in long-term parking spots, and pulled away from the dock.  Soon after clearing the Long Beach Harbor we raised the sails.  This was our chance to begin meeting crew and other passengers.  Stephanie (passenger) and Eric (crew) are out on the bowsprit untieing the flying jib.

Once the sails were set we had a chance to meet more of the passengers and crew.  Greg (passenger) on the left, Mike (crew) next, Chuck (passenger) and my favorite, Susanne (passenger).

Our first days travels went from Long Beach to Paradise Cove near Point Dume in Malibu.  By car with no traffic you could make that run in perhaps an hour and a half... by sailing yacht it took about seven hours.  We had to run the engine as we were going "upstream".  Upstream in this case means against the prevailing northwesterly ocean swell and wind.  The engine did the hard work.

About halfway across the Santa Monica Bay we were visited by a pod of dolphins.  They played in the bow wave for a few minutes.

A few were babies like the ones on the left.

The dolphins were a real treat.

Notice that Stephanie had climbed out on the bowsprit to get a top-down view of the pod.

I had a chance to take a picture of the standing rigging with the sails up.  We were told that if we could understand and sail this boat, we could sail any modern boat.

This shot is looking along the cabin back to the cockpit.  Mike is sitting on the side and Captain Holly is at the helm.

After bashing our way north for several hours we eased into our first night anchorage in Paradise Cove.  Paradise Cove is a semi-sheltered area hidden in the lee of Point Dume.  The prevailing westerly swell rolls around the corner making this anchorage rolly.  And roll we did!  We rolled ourselves to sleep listening to the creaking of the rigging as the old girl lay at anchor for the night!  That's Betsy looking at the Malibu mansions hanging on the cliffs around the cove.

And by the way...  Are we having fun yet? 
(out of focus...  sorry about that)

And so ends Day One of our six day voyage off Southern California

Click Here to go to Day Two