Every now and then a rare opportunity enables a person to chase their dream. Of course dreams don’t always turn out the way we plan.
As a child, ‘The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau’ inspired my own dreams of traveling the world’s oceans in search of adventure and the experiences of the extraordinary creatures of the sea. I always felt a comfort and kinship with seals, whales, and dolphins that I never was able to cultivate among my own species. Likewise, strange and diverse cultures never seemed so distant as the one I found in my own neighborhood. I lived a life of believing that the grass was always greener somewhere else. As I grew to be an adult, my dreams grew more remote from my reality. I always felt I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But as my friend says, ‘Hope is the last thing we lose’. And I was someone with great hopes.
After the passing of my younger brother to cancer in 2001, while we were trying to start a business together, even hope seemed to me a dim light, lost at the end of a forsaken tunnel. I had all but given up on ever sailing away on my little ship of dreams. It was enough to feign contentment in a world where my soul was searing with discontent. Only my faith saved me from complete despair. My friend had been right; hope is the last thing we lose.
A miraculous and life-changing chain of events began shortly after my brother died which lead to my purchasing an old plywood ketch in the San Francisco bay area, leaving my beloved Hawaii after a 12-year romance with her, and moving onto the sailboat in Sausalito, California. I lived on her there, while reconditioning her, for nearly three years, working as a waiter and a bartender at a nearby restaurant. By my 40th birthday I was preparing to leave on the voyage I had dreamed of from childhood. But now I knew that dreams don’t always turn out the way we plan.
My old man dreamed of sailing around the world his whole life. Now, at 70, he would take his first voyage, joining his only remaining son for the sail from San Francisco to Santa Cruz via Half Moon Bay. The dream had begun again for us both, in a bittersweet way.
The good ship ‘Mana’ (home built in the early 70’s and named for the Polynesian Spirit of God), performed soundly, as did her crew. Mana would spend the summer on a mooring in Capitola, and Dad would reluctantly return home. I got a job, met a woman, and generally began feeling more like Jacques Cousteau everyday. Bottlenose dolphins swam through the anchorage and around the boat regularly…sea otters, seals, and sea lions paraded through the place constantly, while cormorants and pelicans both dove on baitfish, each in their mesmerizing and eternal way. Driving the shore-boat for the Capitola Marina, I was living and working on the water in one of the most magical places on the Monterey bay.
My girlfriend and I took weekend trips to Monterey Harbor, and Moss Landing that summer, in addition to day trips for sightseeing and fishing around the Santa Cruz area with friends and family, including the end of season fireworks display from New Brighton beach. It was the summer of my dreams, and only the emptiness of my brothers’ absence balanced the utopian atmosphere.
Our plan was to leave in the fall when my seasonal work was finished, and sail south along the California coast to Mexico…and eventually across the ocean, in Spring, to the South Pacific where I could once again engage my favorite pastime amongst my favorite kind of people – Polynesians! As a surfer in these latitudes, the only thing I find more disheartening than the overwhelming and aggressive crowds is the frigid water temperature. After more than a decade surfing warm, clear, turquoise water, I had become a sissy and a snob about surf. Plus, after all my years in Hawaii, I have endlessly imagined surfing in the South Pacific with my sailboat comfortably anchored in its lagoons…swapping waves and stories with friendly water-born natives beaming eternal smiles of content…the way happy island people do. On October 22, 2007, along with my faithful mutt Pono, we departed Santa Cruz harbor without fanfare, and with that bold itinerary in mind.
We enjoyed a fair wind the first day in a breezy, cold, but beautiful sail across the bay towards Pacific Grove. From there, the wind dropped to zero. After enjoying the tranquility of the spectacular views of Pebble Beach and Carmel by the sea, we reluctantly called on the iron wind, and she commenced blowing. We had timed our departure to arrive in the middle of the night (the following night) at Pt. Arguello and Conception, allowing for several hours sleep together on the first night out, which approached out of a calm sea and a red sky. We hove to and finally turned off the wind around Pt. (???), made something to eat, and rested as much as possible. It was a moonlit, glorious night to be on the ocean in that stretch of water. The boat hardly rolled. Sometime in the very early morning I couldn’t take the perfection any longer and I got up and began to head south at the rate of nearly a gallon an hour – about 6 knots.
We had wind the next day near San Simeon so we decided not to stop there, though we had imagined we would if the calm continued. We could just see the Hearst Castle from 10 miles out. We made good time south to Morro Bay, and kept her pointing SE toward the hazy outline of unending land to the south as sunset came on, as beautiful and dramatic as it had been the night before.