Signing Off...For Now
30 January 2008 | Moraga, Ca.
It has really happened. The end of another journey. The reality bomb drops in a ball of flames and molten rock. Images of Chilis Restaurants, Walmart, and Chevron scatter across my bleak and blurry vision. I stumble and quickly find myself in the small town where I grew up. Kelly Clarkson comes through the satellite radio and I am afraid. Where is this place that has captured me? It is dark and raining with dreary expectations. Leaves are gone, trees are bare, but the grass looks beautifully green from where I sit. I sense greener pastures are near.
We had close to the best sail of the entire trip on our way from San Diego to Dana Point, which is just shy of 50 miles. The forecast called for nasty conditions with strong winds and big seas. L.A. was on a crash course to get hammered with numerous weather systems throughout the weekend and we monitored everything close. As luck would have it, everything worked out far better than we ever would have expected or anticipated. Contrary to the prevailing wind direction, we coasted our way up the coast of Southern California in a moderate Southerly blow. It didn't push more than 18 knots the entire day, and we flew the bright-colored spinnaker along the gorgeous rocky seashore. For the first time in many years the high mountains along California's southern coast were sprinkled with a soft dusting of light snow. "That can't be snow on the mountains?" turned into "That is amazingly beautiful!" The skies were clear and the sun warmed my face. The chilly, yet fresh air smelled clean and clear as I inhaled, while the sun brought a smile to my face. My hands dug deeply in my fleece-lined and fuzzy pockets. After sailing almost 4000 against the wind, Mother Nature gave us a little push, which I interpreted as a welcome home gift. Our relationship has grown to new levels over the months and I developed a respect for Her far greater than any in my short past. I was incredibly thankful for this time.
Julie's sister visited us that night in Dana Point and helped begin the celebrations. Saturday turned out to be quite a busy day for us as we FINALLY had to be somewhere at a particular time. We were scheduled to arrive at the Balboa Yacht Club in Newport Harbor at exactly 5:15 pm. For many months we so greedily lived by "we're leaving when the weather is right". Our family and a few close friends were waiting on the dock to welcome us home and we didn't want to be late. Chris' two, long-time sailing buddies came along for the ride as well, which was actually a relief as they helped a lot and provided great times. The mood was fun and light-hearted. I had the typical "deep breath" experience when we entered San Diego Bay just a few weeks ago. The hover-craft, the sound of the channel bells, and skyline made the moment what it was. Pulling into Newport was more of a fun and celebratory time. I however, was a bit nervous for our final docking and didn't want to screw anything up. Fortunately, our crew was great and the landing was just perfect. Chris and Julie popped the famous South African champagne and lit flares off the bow. The bright red flames lit the harbor's boats while fellow friends blew horns and cheered. We embraced for a few hugs and pictures on the bow and enjoyed the moment. I sincerely thanked both of them for sharing such an incredible adventure with me, and toasted a glass of bubbly.
We celebrated at the yacht club, showed a slide show, and ate Fajitas (go figure). It was wonderful to see our families and put a cap on this unbelievable journey. A number of people asked me what my favorite part of the trip was, and I always answer the same way, "Too many to list!". But if I were to pick just one, it'd clearly be the constant ability for epic exploration, and physically living on top of the ocean for a solid 6 months. Living with just a few inches of fiberglass between me and the sea gave me a sense of unknown that I have never experienced before. Something new always happened and kept apprehension high. What is on the other side of the island? How deep is it here? I wonder how many birds actually live in that tree? Having the ability to wander over to a nearby or new reef, walk the beach around the corner, and simply live on, off, and in the sea was almost spiritual at times. It is something I now closely cherish, will never forget, and keep close.
In closing, I am humbled by the opportunity I had and moved by the many experiences. Every adventure is unique and special in its own certain way. This jaunt truly was memorable, and I can only imagine what the next one will entail. Well, one thing is for sure, the end of one journey brings an opportunity for another.