The following is an except of a memoir written by Charles Howard Duffy while sailing on the “LADY JO” in the Honolulu Classic, a yacht race between San Pedro and Honolulu, Jan 4,1939.
The Honolulu Classic – Jan 4, 1939
Here we are, three days out and only one entry! The reason for this is that I have been spending all of my spare time hove to at the rail or in my bunk. I really wasn’t very sick, mostly uncomfortable. Last night was the first meal I could keep down since leaving Catalina, and this morning we had a swell breaking fast on deck. We are now 260 miles SSW from San Pedro, sailing along at 3 knots in a light northerly breeze in brilliant sunshine. There are good sized ground swells running, and the ocean in deep blue, flecked with white foam from our bow-wake. On my 6 to 9 watch this morning some of the swells reached a depth of of at least 50 feet from crest to trough and a length of 200 to 300 yards from crest to crest. We are sailing with a genoa job, staysail, and main. We believe we are in a region of the variable winds, and we expect to hit the north east trades most any time.
I will try to sketch up briefly the events of the past few days. I wasn’t a bit excited until after the reports and photographers and multitudes of people arrived to see us off. Then I got the most squeamish feeling I ever had in my life, which was aggravated by our delay in waiting for a fifth crew member who decided not to go after all. I got so I couldn’t even laugh of smile at stories of winter northeast gales and people being washed overboard from Dick Smith and other parties. After clearing H-10 point we tried to swing ship to determine the compress deviations but our escort of about eight boats loaded with people interfered so much we finally gave it up. We rounded San Pedro light, hoisted the genoa jib, staysail, advanced staysail, and mainsail in a light westerly breeze, and shut off the motor. We decided to run about the east end of Catalina, but that night the wind shifted to easterly, so we changed our course to the west end. However, the wind isn’t constant; it shifted to westerly and we started for the east end again. We finally beat around the east end in an easterly about 9:00 AM Monday.
Monday morning, 9 to 12 on my watch it clouded up and poured rain. I was the first to don a slicker. All of a sudden the wind shifted from a moderate easterly to a strong northwesterly. We replaced the genoa with a working jib and ran on a broad reach well to seaward of San Clamente Island and to leeward of Bishop rock. Rain squalls continued all day off and on, and the seas build u tremendously. Just before day Monday, as I was hove to along the rail, a super-terrific squall hit and knocked the ship down. I called Ed from his bunk and took the wheel while he and Sam took in the advanced staysail and the job; the latter lost its out-haul and becket from the jib boom. For a while we ran along with only the staysail and main; then Ed repaired the jib and hoisted it. All night Monday and on Tuesday we ran on a broad reach in a strong wind, at time probably reaching 40 miles per hour, with high seas.
Nothing eventful happened Tuesday, except that Sam and Ed were not any more interested in eating than I was. The seas moderated and the wind dropped to some in the evening so we all took a little easily digested food in the cockpit. This brings me up to date.
The light wind is shifting further aft, the sheets are slacked off, and boom tackle is rigged. Ed took star sights at 4 AM this morning and a sun sight this afternoon. He is catching up on all his navigating and doing a swell job of it. Rose peeled potatoes in the after deck and is doing a wonderful job in the galley, but the customers are just becoming really interested. Sea gulls are flying around and a couple of varieties of tropical birds (bos’un birds and a small black unidentified) have made their appearance. Sam sighted some sail fish, and Ed came charging our of the cabin expecting to see some big fish with full sail and spinnakers flying; however, they were only a small sort of jellyfish, with a small oval sail, floating on the surface. It was my watch now. The boat is practically sailing itself with the genoa again set, but we have almost lost seaway. The boat is rolling in these terrifically deep, gigantically high ground swells. The morning we heard on the radio that the storm and seas were doing quite some damage along the coast. I had thought that we are in just ordinary offshore sailing weather. We will try to get through on the radio tonight to let people know we are all right and having a wonderful time. The air is noticeably warmer.