Men go back to the mountains, as they go back to sailing ships at sea, because in the mountains and on the sea they must face up. ~ Henry David Thoreau
My neighbors and dear friends, Larkin, Sommer, and Simon Jones, invited me to join them for the weekend to Catalina island aboard The Indigenous, a sea worthy vessel of 30′ and 1985 vintage. They moor the craft in Marina Del Rey (next adjacent neighborhood to me in Venice, both of which make up greater Los Angeles).
Thursday afternoon was spent grocery shopping and gear stowing. Talk about bringing out the kid in me..Simon and I hit the grocery store with skipping and general rough housing. You know the mischief that would have most certainly raised the voice of your mom when you were a kid and it was the night before going on vacation. Tripping your friend in front of strangers, throwing rolls of paper towels at each other from one end of the isle to the next, tapping the opposite shoulder of a stranger and blaming it on a your buddy and they can’t keep a straight face to save their life. It made it even more fun that we were creating those shenanigans in the rather straight up and down, if ya know what I mean, Marina Del Rey supermarket on a Friday afternoon. We got snarels from cougar and silver fox alike, whereas we promptly laughed at them often times with a pointed finger. You see, Simon is an Aussie and his fair complexion, teenage boy like build and soft accent is completely disarming. He’ll argue about all these facts, but of course he loves nothing more than a good argue and an opportunity to take the piss out of someone who doesn’t have the cannons to take the heat. So, back to the store..we bought my cronchy food (it tends to be a bit bland, given I don’t cook to often), Simon and Sommers fabulous steaks and accoutrement (they’ve done this before), and lest not forget Larkin’s treats (cookies, yogurts, fruits, juices, etc.). Sommer, Simon’s wife, is a 5th generation Californian (the only one I know) and loves a glass of white wine and a big laugh. Larkin wasn’t 6 months old when I moved into my place in Venice beach nearly 5 years ago. Immediately upon meeting him I started calling him the Lady’s Man. Blond straight hair, big blue eyes, and a self proclaimed pirate, Larkin Spike Jones is/will be the quintessential lady’s man. It was all cool until he started to introduced himself as that. Sommer was thrilled with me ;)..
After the store run we packed the boat. Food and gear got stowed in every conceivable cranny. The boat is plenty big at 30′ but we still played one hell of a game of tetris to get it all to fit. We stowed the sail covers, installed the auto-pilot, secured The Indy (the dinghy), checked all systems, fueled and watered up, and drank one celebratory beer before heading home. The Indigenous was ready to set sail.
Morning couldn’t come fast enough.
We were at the coffee shop at 5:30 and leaving the harbor at 7am.
It was a bit grey. 55 degrees and a 10-15 knot wind from the west with 3-5′ seas. A small craft advisory stood for the late afternoon. We had a 6-7 hour sail ahead of us. If everything went right, we’d be moored in Twin Harbors , the leeward side of Catalina island right at 30 miles from Marina Del Rey, before the heavy winds picked up. After some light breakfast and about an hour to sea I found a nap, curled up in the stern cabin. The tossing of the vessel helped. I was a little concerned as to whether I’d be able to sleep or not but quickly realized I would not have any trouble at all. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, my mind raced between work and family and a woman and health and sailing and rugby and swimming and habits…essentially it, my mind, would not shut up. Then I checked my phone. I was surprised that I had signal and smiled. I thought ‘I’ll be able to work on the sailboat!’ Then I switched my thinking..I was a little embarrassed with myself for even wanting to do so. I’d just spent the last 20 days getting ducks in a row so that I could leave for a couple days without having to grind. Right then, I vowed not to turn on the phone for the weekend. I never don’t turn on my phone. So this was going to be good.
I recalled some recent yoga classes with Erich Schiffmann where he described one’s mind as an etch a sketch. “When a thought enters the mind, swooosh, wipe it clean. Having a still mind does not mean you’re left with nothing. Try it. Still mind.” So there I wiped my mind and thus my positive energy level spiked. I dazed into a sleep that was amazing. Not only did I feel great when I dozed off, I was due a bit of rest, having gotten to sleep around 3am the night before. 3 hours later I woke to the sun dancing on the galley walls. The stainless steel oven unit was reflecting a different sky than that of hours prior. I brushed my teeth and threw some water on face emerging from the cockpit to clear skys and a thrilled Simon at the helm. Off to the port side of the ship, due east, was Palos Verdes and to the starboard side was pacific blue for nearly 2500 miles to Hawaii. Beyond that is another 6000 miles, minus a couple minute specks of land, to Asia. I thought to myself, “I want to make this sail.” Back to the present. Simon at the helm, Sommer reading a novel, and Larkin sort of roaming about the salon looking for things to be told not to mess with. We would be moored by 3pm. The evening was easy. Sandwiches, cold beer, big laughs, early to bed..
I woke at day break. The orange of the sun reflecting and refracting off a still sea was breath taking. There were quite a few ships moored nearby, however no one else was up. I made myself a cup of coffee and sat in silence for nearly an hour before deciding it was completely ok to go back to sleep, which I did for another couple hours.
It had been some time since I last slept in like that and I needed it. When I finally did wake, the cove was buzzing. I took Larkin for a short ride in the “Larkin Dinghy”, an inflatable raft that was most exciting. I splashed the cold salt water onto my body and breathed deep. Upon getting back on the boat, Simon started to give me the lay of the land. That over there is so and so. Over here you can see this and that. On the windward side of the isthmus is another cove that takes this long to reach, but is oh so nice. I like to call him Falcor (from Never Ending Story fame) because he likes to spin a good yarn. I like the stories he has to tell. So the miscellaneous tasks of the boat began to take shape. Sommer was starting to prepare an early lunch, Simon was fiddling with all sorts of fasteners and lines and pulleys and cleats, pieces foreign to me, as my boating experience has nearly exclusively been on power boats. Larkin was watching the fish frolic underneath us throw clear cold water.
After lunch I took a ride with Simon to the harbor on the Dinghy to take a hike alone. I needed a couple hours sans 5 year old. I walked due west across the isthmus toward Cats harbor and took the trail to the south toward the mouth of the inlet. I found myself on the last point of navigable land where I sat down to breath deep. Across the inlet was a cragged piece of rock jutting up from the sea and narrowly connected to the greater island. I realized that this was the edge of the world. There was nothing between that piece of rock and Hawaii, nearly 2,500 miles due west. The thought of that fascinates me. What is it about the adventure, danger, and unknown that calls to me so about even attempting an adventure like that. Even the thought of sailing that distance excites me, never mind the actual note taking of what it would take to make the journey in my note book. Telling myself that, “Yes, I could do that.” Who the hell do I think I am..hahaha. Kinda makes me chuckle. So I’m sitting there just staring at this rock and the vastness of the blue that stretches beyond the horizon when I see a bird circling. Granted, this particular rock is about 250 meters away, meaning that in order for me to see this bird, it would have to be big. Real big. So I am watching it closely and then I thought about the camera my oldest and dearest friend, Nick Greenway, gave me only a month earlier.I was able to borrow a pretty sick lens from another pal, Andrew Whitelaw, so I was all set. As I drew the monster camera from its bag, I began to get excited. This wasn’t just any bird. I could make out its white head and tail feathers from 250 meters. I was fortunate enough to spot and photograph a Bald Eagle for the first time in my life, on Memorial Day no less. So freaking cool!
A few conversations with hikers as they passed by and a few hours later I hiked back across the island to meet Simon and Larkin to ride back to the boat. Larkin was all smiles with an ice cream in hand. Happy boy 🙂 We easily cruised back to the Indigenous to find Sommer preparing some eats. We boarded the vessel and relaxed. I mean, nothing is more important that putting one’s feet up and enjoying a good book and just taking it easy while on a sail boat. I witnessed my surroundings and wrote this poem
Im floating in the water 🙂
Salt on my lips and its good.
Face hot from the sun and the strong part is now coming from the sea.
I can hear the cannons with my chest.
The Lady’s man is a whirling dervish and Si is up first and down last.
Our matriarch has patience like the cliff’s aft our vessel.
My life is good.
Again, I dosed off early after a solid meal. Again, I woke with the sun, alone and in peace. My mind began to explore the possibility of sailing around the world. What would I need to do in order to make it happen? What would I need to learn, before embarking on such a journey to insure I would not perish, at least at the start? How would I finance it? These questions quickly left my mind as the day started and the routine started. Coffee, cereal, eggs, sausage, OJ, fresh cold water, more coffee. It was all so good. The day passed easily and we discussed our trip back home. Simon liked to discuss the weather and Sommer and I enjoyed picking on him for doing so, over and over again. In the afternoon, Sommer and Simon took a ride alone leaving Larkin and I to fish. They chastised me for wanting to fish, but really, what was I to do? The fish underneath the boat seemed to tease me as they circled to and fro. Schools of sardines and small mackerel teamed together to swoosh one way only to swoosh back the other way. I had bought some frozen squid earlier to test the water and was happy to share the time with Larkin. It wasn’t long before he pulled in his first fish ever. I was proud to be a part of it.
The only trouble was the fact that Sommer wanted nothing to do with any sort of fish, which we learned upon her return. So, upon her instruction, dumped the bag full of fish back into the sea, which created the only melt down of the weekend. Larkin was crushed. Why, on earth, did we have to throw them back!, he exclaimed. Never mind the fact he didn’t/doesn’t/won’t eat fish..they were his and he was pissed. It didn’t last long and before long, he and his dad were pulling them back out of the water for sport. It was fun indeed!
The sail home was easy peasy and we did it under sails for most of the trck. It was awesome in the sense that we were like a huge regatta, with boats of all shapes and sizes, traveling back to Los Angeles from the long weekend. Cutters, schooners, sail boat, the Catalina Flyer (the municipal ferry), power boats, cigarette boats, and massive yachts all cruised back toward the shore. Even from the sea, one was able to make out crowds of people that lined the shores on a beautiful weekend. We were back in Marina Del Rey by 5 and had the boat washed and packed away by 7. I would be asleep by 8:30, thoroughly exhausted and thankful.
I believe I have found a new passion..