To say I was “at sea” feels to be a bit of a stretch, accepting the fact that I was only 6 miles SW of the Morro Bay Rock.  I  had met a fellow south bound cruiser during my few days tie in Morro.  We were both headed for the Channel Islands. My plan was to stop in Avila, his was to go straight for San Miguel.  We talked, I realized my plan to stop in Avila was only going to wear me down before making the big jump around Point Conception.  So it was agreed that we would leave at 10 am in the morning and make about a 25 hour run to San Miguel Island.  Departure was a nice morning.  My main sail went up like I pictured it would inside the Morro Bay harbor.  I kept the engine on, putted outside the channel and raised the jib.  Selene was catching a small amount of wind and pointed SW, headed to clear the point by Diablo Canyon by about 2 miles.  I was anxious for more wind, it’s never fun averaging 2 knots at the beginning of a 100 mile sail.  The wind died out completely so I brought my new best friend Tohatsu to life.  Selene and I were bumping along towards a nice thick fog bank that hung around the point.  Eventually we were inside the fog.  Still no wind, but some nice sized wind waves.  Steep little waves, a bit mixed, maybe averaging 4 or 5 feet.  A light finicky wind was building, not interested in helping me and Selene make any progress.  So I continued to rely on Tohatsu who was having a hard time keeping his bottom half wet.   Just as I was starting to get fairly discouraged with my start the wind came to life, quickly.  I had an idea it was out there with all the wind waves around, but had lost hope it would fill in so nicely.  Both sails up and we were flying, maybe 15-20 knots of wind.  The wind was mildly gusty so I let out both sails a bit and had Selene at a nice comfortable heel.  The boat was making 6 knots easily and I was a happy sailor.  There happened to be this one nice little wind wave that found the starboard beam of Selene.  The wave was steeper on the backside than it was on the front.  I was on a starboard tack.  At the top of this very now important wave, Selene stood straight up.  Maybe it was my steering, maybe it was the slight luff from the wind, or maybe Selene just had an old tired rig.  She plopped down the backside of the wave and appeared to catch a gust at the same time.  LOUD HORRIBLE SNAPPING NOISE. I’m on the low side. BOOM JUMPING OVER MY HEAD. Instantly my entire rig straight upside down off the portside rail.  It took a few life long seconds to realize, and even more so to believe what had just happened.  I processed, made sure there where no quick moves I could perform to secure the rig better and reached for the vhf.   After giving the Coast Guard my situation and location on went the life jacket.  I grabbed my portable radio and headed back into the cockpit.  With a dockline I was able to secure the boom just outside the cockpit combing and then head below to pull up the floor board.  DRY BILGE, I feel my first moment of relief.  Heading back outside it appears the rig is resting nicely on the now windward portside.  The sails acting as drogue keeping the metal off the hull.  After hearing my full situation the Coast Guard sends out their life boat.  While waiting for help to arrive I secured a line to the backstay and tried to get something started with the winch.  Looking back now it was a bad idea, I was only fighting the forestay.  The Coast Guard boat showed up and I felt like a 29 year Old Man.  I think everyone on the boat was younger than me,  but they worked together as an awesome team.  They also had great senses of humor, something I needed to share with them during this moment.  Their group communication was incredible and within minutes two of them were on the bow.  I did my best to say “welcome aboard” and let the them assess the situation.  The wind waves were just rough enough that it was urgent we did something about the giant metal stick getting ready to bang against my hull.  First came a brute force effort at lifting the mast, no way.   At some point we tried the sails downhauls, nothing.  Then we cut the forestay and tried bringing in the backstay, nope.  The waves were not getting any nicer.  Both myself and the coast guard were ready to get out of harms way.  Maybe if I had spent a few bucks on a new rig and sails I’d have been more reluctant to let it go, or shit, maybe I wouldn’t be having to let her go.  Either way the bolt cutters were passed around,  I double checked with the Coast Guard Captain making sure it was legal to sink my rig and down she went.  As my sails and sticks sank to the bottom I looked up at the Captain who had been circling my little boat from high on his giant and with half a smile said “No ceremony or nothing?”.  He smiled and I was relieved to still have my hull in tact.  I’m sure plenty a better seaman than myself could have rescued the rig, but for me and Selene it wasn’t meant to be.  I went to try and wake up my buddy Tohatsu who had been sleeping for a while, but unfortunately he had been napping under the waves and wasn’t able to awake.  So, the big boat threw the little boat a line and off we went.  As we were being towed in, me and my two new Coast Guard crew member, the mood was light.  We joked, made proper introductions and all felt relief to be on a boat headed for calmer waters.   Surfing in the Morro Bay Harbor Channel under tow is exciting to say the least.  One of the coast guard members had done some sailing and seemed to enjoy taking the tiller when I needed a break.  The other decided to take over during the channel surfing, having seen what a sailboat can do coming in under tow.  On the way in Tohatsu had a chance to dry off and wake up.  I made it over to the slip under my own power, which felt great.   The Coast Guard guys with guns were waiting for us on the docks.  Politely asked to board and gave Selene the green light on vessel safety.  I’m happy to be back in Morro Bay with Selene, my dog, and my safety.  The Coast Guard is a truly wonderful example of a great government service.   If you or anyone you know has a sailboat mast lying around be sure to let me know.

the problem

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