Saturday, April 14, 2012


Noon Position:  40 26' S, 105 15' E, SOG 5.3, COG 065, Day's Run 135nm.  Last night I ran the engine for an hour or so while I was cooking dinner just around sunset.  I took on an extra ten gallons of diesel in jerry cans in Valparaiso in case I should need to divert into the Patagonian Channels, but even so I still only carry 35 gallons of fuel, which should give me a range of about 200 miles under power - clearly I'm not going to be motoring across any oceans.  That being said, I've been trying to run the engine for an hour or so at least once a month, just to keep everything lubed up and flowing - it would be a shame to discover that something had frozen from all the moisture in the air next time I try to pull onto a dock.  I tend to confine my engine operation to calmish weather, since the starting the engine requires some aerobics crammed head first into a cockpit locker with a screwdriver to short the contacts on the back of the ignition switch, which is corroded beyond the point of functionality by taking one too many waves straight into it's keyhole.  The rattling thunder of the engine in the twilight as I was cooking brought back a conglobulated mass of  weekend trips with Westwind and Mariners, motoring out to Catalina on Friday after school, sailing back Sunday afternoon.  I even mixed up a bottle of Crystal Light (tm?) to complete the effect.  Catalina had an almost mystical air about it, a certain foreignness - almost as far away as Canada or Hawaii.  I remember the first trip I took with Westwind out to Catalina certainly treated it as such - we met the week before the big day and spent a few hours planning, learning about safety, navigation, food, schedules.  And then the departure, with weepy-eyed mothers waving from the end of the dock as we motored around the corner and down the channel, into the unknown.  I remember a radio conversation with the boat Claire de Lune, hearing something about engine troubles - Nearly every trip on the small boats seemed to involve engine trouble of some sort.  Sitting in the cockpit on watch, motoring out past the red buoy covered with sea-lions, extra eyes peeled when our dead reckoning said we had entered the shipping lanes, keeping a sharp lookout for tankers.  Finally arriving in the wee hours of the morning in Avalon, or Two Harbors, the profound still silence when the engine was at last quieted, going back to sleep with smelly wet hands from the mooring lines.  And then, awakening to the rock of the boat, the smell of the sea, to dawn, dawn in a whole new world, full of seagulls and boats and strangeness, a world without parents or worries, eating scrambled eggs or instant oatmeal before venturing forth.  I remember a phone call home from the payphone at the Isthmus, proud of how far away I was (and perhaps feeling a little bit lonely as well), half wondering if there was a time difference to call all the way back to shore.  It was a world full of newness and excitement, ice-cream and gewgaws at the little shop on shore.  A full day and a half of exploring, sailing, maybe going to anew anchorage, Avalon for the movies and more ice-cream, Long Point, or my favorite spot, Little Gibraltar, anchored stern-to to an enormous rusty bollard in a towering rock in the middle of the cove, before sailing home again Sundat afternoon, bowling downwind through the waves and the sun, racing the other boats, shouting and waving back and forth.  Finally seeing land rise up out of smog, arriving back at the dock, exhausted, to pack up and unload and clean up before crumpling into the back seat of the car for the long drive home.


  1. Oh my goodness, Eric! This brought back memories of me being the one standing weepy-eyed on the dock as our much-too-young son set sail into the unknown blue ocean. Those vast "26 miles across the sea" to Santa Catalina where anything might happen during that endless weekend. Rationally we knew that Diane and Steve and Skip and Chris and Bucky would make sure that you and your young Westwind or Sea Scout shipmates would make it home safely, but oh how your dad and I worried about you...sleep deprivation on night watches, possible terrible disasters awaiting your small boat in the shipping lanes, rough waters, unexpected stormy weather, capsizes... And yet at the same time we were so very proud of your accomplishments, confidence and independence while delighted that you had found a youthful single-minded passion for sailing.

    I guess a parent's worry and pride in their children never really change as they grow into adulthood. Here you are by yourself halfway round the world in the Indian Ocean and our concerns for your safety are still the same, but still balanced by our incredible pride in your accomplishments and independence and our complete confidence in your ability to deal with the many unexpected challenges. And just as we did years ago, we will be waiting for you on the dock when you and Odyssey arrive back in L.A. tired and bedraggled. The car will be ready for you to crumple into for the long drive home to a comfortable bed, hot meal, and still hotter shower.

  2. Eric,
    Thanks for the memories. One thing you should know, but probably don't know, is that Mariner Youth made as much a difference in the Adult's lives as the Adults made in Youth's lives. We sure owe a debt of gratitude to Skipper!
    I agree with you about the "feeling" at Catalina. My favorite is Cat Harbor; it holds so many wonderful memories. My husband and I are planning a trip there in July.
    Stay safe!