July 8, 2018
Noon Position: 38 07N 123 30W
Bar: 1019, falling
Cabin Temperature: 62
Water Temperature: 51
Sail: #2, full
Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 161
Miles this leg: 2,741
Avg. Miles this leg: 137
Wind came on fresh after dark. By midnight I had three reefs in the main and two in the working jib. We took the short, steep, bullying sea between port quarter and beam on, and Mo steered heavily. Deep reefs and still too much sail, but I wanted the speed.
By early morning, winds were steady in the low 30s; the knocks were laying Mo over, putting the boom end in the water. I hauled in the main and went to jib alone. “Absolute dark. Terrible boat motion,” I wrote in the log. I barely slept.
Wind continued to build after sunup. Now 35 was common. I tucked in a bit more of the jib. The sea crashed loudly all around. Mo raced on.
The route into Drakes Bay crosses the north-bound shipping lanes out of San Francisco, and given the murk, I’d run the radar all night. Now the batteries needed topping off, so I lowered the Watt and Sea hydrogenerator. A snapping sound and the downhaul went limp. I peered over the transom. There the unit drug in the water like a dead fish. It had slipped its track. At least the timing was good, I thought.
By 11:30, land ho! The high headlands to the north of Point Rays floated black above the haze.
But only haze and fog ahead. Then, as we closed the coast, the sea exchanged its blue for an emerald green and became confused. Mo heaved. Two ships in rapid succession. Both veered slightly to accommodate the tiny, wild beast at their bows, for which kindness I was grateful.
At nine miles off, slowly the high, kingly rock of Point Reyes emerged from fog. Bold, proud, immense, its three-story lighthouse a tiny speck near the summit. Here the water turned milky. Murres, Cormorants, and the red-footed Guillemot became thick, as thick as the Prions, Petrels, and Albatross at the entrance to Cook Bay so many months ago, and for the same reason–to celebrate the surging of water from below.
And then it happened, the thing so dreamed of. We rounded the sea buoy and turned north into the calm, flat water of Drake Bay, in past Chimney Rock and the old lifeboat station where I furled the jib, rigged the anchor and weighed below the familiar sandstone cliffs. The smell of land, of drying grass and warmed earth, of chaparral and pine.
After eight months and some 27,000 miles, Mo was home.
The wind howled all night. In the morning, fog dripped from the rigging. I weighed at noon.
3pm. I make a course south along the cliffs, along Drake’s Estero pouring out, along Limantour and that lone Eucalyptus, the sentinel of Coast Camp; by white and gleaming Stormy Stack, along Palo Marin. Here the south tower of the Golden Gate emerges. Twin Peaks is visible.
4pm. Past the ragged and broken red walls surrounding Tennessee Cove and Rodeo Cove. Then we round Point Bonita. Now sun. Wind is light. I angle Mo well over toward Mile Rock to ensure we cross our outbound track emphatically on the westward side of the bridge. I don’t know why this is important.
6pm. Under the mighty Golden Gate and on to Cavallo Point, where my sister-in-law, her husband and two children are waiting on a rocky ledge with Joanna, my wife.
Here, on October 28, 2017, Mo and I departed for a Figure 8 Voyage around the world. Last-minute chores and well-wishers had interrupted final goodbyes between Joanna and me–a quick hug, then slip the lines. Out of Horseshoe Cove, I raised sail and flicked off the engine. I had left many times before, but this departure put in my chest a tightness, a concentration of loneliness, apprehension. What were the challenges before me? Could I get there and back? Or, would I be the man who, like Santiago, went too far? I turned for one last glimpse of Joanna on the quay. One last wave. But the fog had taken her and the point and the hill. Before I felt quite ready, she was gone.
Today, no such injustice. It’s a bright, warm evening in San Francisco, and we wave like mad. We wave and wave as the everlasting tide embraces Mo, drawing her deeper and deeper into the bay.
This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage