August 13, 2005

The Bounding Main

I should probably preface this account with a statement of apathy. I will probably get something wrong in the telling of the story, because I am no kind of sailor. The terminology is fun to toss around, but it's not something I'm an expert in. Well, if I do get anything wrong, I don't care, and therefore I don't want to hear about it.

On Thursday, The Black Van (think UPS truck) was loaded for departure to Santa Cruz Harbor. There was food. There were shotguns and clay pigeons. There was bedding. There was a dinghy. And there were five people: self, Rachel, Jon, Julie, and Larry.

Hold on a second . . . *scrolls down* . . . oops. That last is Rachel's dad. Good grief.

Anyway, we drove out to the dock, all prepared to load up the Surprise (which would be a 33-foot sailboat, named after Jack Aubrey's ship from the series by Patrick O'Brian) and set out southeast across Monterey Bay. The boat, however, was 80 minutes into a two hour charter, so we sat down to eat lunch while we waited. I was informed that the trip across the bay would probably take somewhere between three and five hours. All I can think about at this point is the theme song from Gilligan's Island. Oh, and taking a double dose of The Special Pills.

The boat pulled in, right on time, and we loaded up. I did my best, once again, to stand somewhere out of the way so as to minimize the appearance of uselessness. The girls stowed junk below, the guys got things shipshape above. I mostly watched. And then we were putting out of harbor with the motor. It was a beautiful day; very sunny and very calm as we floated into open water. The wind was blowing, I think, mostly from the west, so as soon as the sails came out we tilted alarmingly to port. I say alarmingly . . . Rachel was the main person who was alarmed. Of course, she was also on the starboard side of the boat, holding herself into her seat with her feet braced so she wouldn't drop five feet and land on me.

I had been asked by everyone whether or not I got seasick. My answer was that I've never been in a boat long enough to find out, but I do get motion sickness in cars on windy roads. Well, I can answer the question now: Yes, I can get seasick. That's really the only interesting thing to relate about sailing across the bay, because once we got out of sight of land, everything became cold and grey and it was difficult to tell that we were moving forward. This was especially true considering all the motion in directions other than forward . . . side to side, up and down, etc.

And so, as I say, the only thing that really differentiated one minute from the next after awhile was whether or not someone was throwing up over the side. Which made things rather monotonous, as there were only three such occasions. Julie, who was not doing well at all on the way down, went for the railing twice. I had the honor of relieving the relentless sameness the third time, just as we came in sight of land.

I could have held out, I think, had the waves not been hitting us from the side. The extreme motion this produced was just a bit too much, and I lost my turkey sandwich, my package of cherry fruit snacks, and (presumably) both motion sickness pills . . . but I didn't taste those coming back up.

But anyway, enough of that. I was fine for the rest of the trip, so it's all good. And it just made me all the hungrier for the delicious fish and chips and clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl I ate at supper. I actually had never experienced clam chowder before visiting California. I haven't been to an American coast in about 13 or 14 years, and seafood is something I just don't dare to eat in Guatemala. Anyway, I liked it.

After we ate, it was generally decided (and looking back, I don't remember how or why) that Jon would go get ice cream while Larry and Julie walked to the dock nearest where the boat was at anchor. And Rachel and I would go down and row the dinghy over to pick all three of them up. We had a lot of trouble. I couldn't get Rachel to row at a steady rhythm with me and we were constantly listing to port. Very frustrating. As we tried to work this out in our usual peaceful manner (sic), we bumped into something and were nearly deafened by a series of sharp, deep-throated barks.

We had hit a buoy occupied by an extremely territorial sea lion. We didn't want his buoy, but he didn't know that. So we rowed quickly away and he slowly subsided . . . sort of. As we pulled off, Rachel let out an explosive "Ewww!" and we saw that . . . On second thought, I'm not going to say what we saw. I can't deal with the search hits it would produce. Ask me about "hung like a sea lion" sometime.

Anyway, we made it to the correct dock without too much trouble. Julie and Larry came aboard and Jon eventually came along as well. As we made our way back to the boat (still unable to row in a straight line) Julie noticed that my oar had gotten twisted around and was going in at an angle. Which was why . . . yeah. Grrr.

Fast-forward to Friday morning. We slept in, ate a delicious breakfast, and set out to sail around the southern tip of the bay to Carmel on the other side. Julie steered most of the way and didn't get sick. After avoiding jagunormous islands of floating seaweed, we dropped anchor and rowed over to the dock. Then we walked across the Pebble Beach Golf Course and then spent the day wandering around Carmel, poking around in art galleries and so forth. Most of them were larger than the Longview Museum of Fine Arts (or so I'm told . . . I've never been there). Lots of cool paintings and sculptures . . . and then more seafood. Actually, I had a lamb shank, but I had to try a fried oyster and a mussel. Liked the former, didn't like the latter. Anyway, then we trudged our weary way back to the boat again and read ourselves to sleep.

Saturday morning, Julie was picked up by her mother so she wouldn't lose anymore food over the side on the way back. I half-heartedly took a couple more pills and prepared for the inevitable. But it never came. What did come was a very exciting trip back. Not long after leaving Carmel we spotted a pair of whales dead ahead. We sped up (still running on engine at the time) but found we had overshot them by a good bit when they surfaced again. So we came to a halt and just watched from a distance. And they both breached. So cool.

Then there was a line of about 10 dolphins (or maybe porpoises) skipping through the water alongside the boat. We were sailing pretty close to them for awhile. As we got out towards the middle of the bay we came to a stop and pulled out the shotguns and clay pigeons. We shot at those and at things in the water until the ammunition was exhausted . . . I say shot at, of course, because I think I hit one clay pigeon. I don't care what Focus on the Family or whoever tells you about training in violence . . . I can snipe 100 baddies in a row on an FPS computer game, head shots every one, but I couldn't nick the Glaske sculpture point-blank with a shotgun. And the motion of the boat didn't make it any easier to try.

After we set out again, I took the wheel for awhile. Actually, I almost immediatly spotted a whale off the port bow, and Larry took over. It was just coming up for air and going back down for a few minutes at a time. We turned towards it and waited for it to surface again, scanning the water on all sides. I was the first one to spot it, so of course I yelled out "Thar she blows!" I've always wanted to say that for real. We chased that whale for about 40 minutes or so, getting a tiny bit closer to it each time it surfaced for air. But just as we got within about 50 yards, the wind picked up and we blew right by it. By this time, late afternoon was coming on and we needed to be back, so I took over the wheel again, just cuz, and we continued towards land.

The rule was something like, whoever steers picks the music, so I was playing various and sundry soundtracks. As we neared harbor, I got tired of Last of the Mohicans, and told Rachel to go put something else on. She picked Pirates of the Caribbean . . . so that was what was blaring out over the speakers as we sailed into harbor and docked. Heehee.

We unloaded the boat, reloaded the van, cleaned everything up, etc. etc. etc. and took off for church, arriving just in time to catch the tail end of worship. And then we returned home, exhausted and ready for a restful Sunday. Coming soon: My Departure From California.

Posted by Jared at August 13, 2005 11:59 PM | TrackBack