Thursday, November 3, 2011

We set sail

We set sail on the 15th of September in 2012. It was only a week before my 40th birthday and the election was still almost two months away but it was clear what was going to happen. It was clear to most of us at least. Or so we thought. The morning was crisp and there were stars still visible in the sky as dawn began slowly in the east. A massive fog bank sat just a few miles off the coast, between us and the islands. I remember, as I guided The Experience out of her slip, thinking that it was perfect – to be sailing into that fog. On one level it was symbolic of what we were doing – sailing off into the unknown, that big grey area of human experience. We were leaving our safe and solid homes and heading south. We had come to realize that our homes were not as safe or as solid as we had always thought they were. We had grown up in a bubble, and now the bubble was about to burst and we were floating. We weren’t going to wait to be victims of whatever happened back on the mainland, we had tied our destiny, quite literally, to the wind. On a more practical level the fog was an easily attainable goal that I had set my sights on as we motored out of Santa Barbara harbor and prepared to hoist the main sail. We had only to race the two or three miles to its grey womb and we would be invisible. We would easily be there before the light came up. Of course, The Experience would still show up on radar, but none of the coast guard guys would be very keen on chasing a small boat through fog this thick at 5am. There was only one boat assigned to patrol at this hour anyway and there was no way that we could be distinguished from the several other day trippers that were leaving the harbor at the same time. Jeff had been the one who insisted on the name change for our boat. She had been The Santa Rosa for more than ten years. He had said that this should be a fresh beginning in all ways and that the new name symbolized a new way to relate to the world. Sometimes I thought that Jeff was a visionary, and other times it seemed that he had smoked a little too much ganja to make sense anymore. The boat’s name change would turn out to be a little of both. The outer harbor buoy slid past on the starboard, silently playing along with our ruse, as the main sail filled gently with warm offshore breeze. You can almost bet on offshore wind this time of year in California. It made for an easy time out and a tough sail back in if it blew hard enough. But we weren’t going to have to worry about that. I took a long last swig of the coffee I had brought from our empty house and nursed for the last two hours. It was cold and felt like poison in my stomach. Alice came up from below where she had been stowing our belongings in the fore cabin. She scanned the gentle pink light rimming the mountains to the south-east and seemed to relax some, leaning back against the hull. She had one of those ageless faces. She still looked like the girl I had met on the grass at the Shoreline Amphitheater, dancing in circles, all those years ago. I couldn’t imagine her getting older. As I watched the light turn on the side of her face, she looked at me as if to check and see if everything was alright. “Coast is clear,” I called back, smiling.

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