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To Prevost Harbor

The first scent of Fall was carried on the blustery wind as Old Hand rolled in the waves built in the long fetch up San Juan Channel.
“The wind seems to be piping up out of the Southeast,” observed the first mate as she steered past the rocky headland onto a north west heading.  We’d just spent a peaceful night moored to a park buoy in Jones Islands North Cove and were eager to take advantage of a fair breeze to Stuart Island.
The mate scanned the horizon- “Which one is Flattop?”
“There,” I said pointing toward the rounded shape in the distance.  This aptly named island always reminds me of the bizarre, cartoonish images painted during Philip Guston’s late style, with its dark form rising from the water like the frowning forehead of a submerged giant.
“Where?” says the mate irritably, “can’t you be more specific?”
The excellent first mate dislikes vagueness when it comes to navigation.
“Three points off the starboard bow.”
This pronouncement reduced the erstwhile Moppit to a brooding silence.
From below came a cacophony of crashes and thumps.
“I say, Moppit love, would you be so good as to stow gear below?”
“I thought you were going to do that while I cooked breakfast.”
“Yes, well I was planning our passage…”
Such is the drama of a sailing couple. But, I’m happy to say, after a few voyages we’ve learned to be patient with each others quirks.
A steep sea off the quarter caused Old Hand, with her Norwegian stern, to roll frightfully on a broad reach, and having recently removed the port fuel tank to gain better access to the engine, she now had a list to starboard. Jugs of water stowed below the galley helps somewhat.
We’d gone to a self-steering workshop at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Show before crossing the Straits and I was eager to try sheet-to-tiller steering.  I busied myself on deck with straps and blocks, rigging lines aft to the cockpit.  While I struggled to hold the tiller amidships and tie it off with the correct number of wraps of surgical tubing, Moppit called through the pilot house door:
“Wouldn’t it be better to try that in calmer conditions?”
That’s what bugs me about Moppit, always the voice of reason just when I’m warming to my roll as some kind of inland sea Bernard Moitessier.  But she is right of course.
On passages like this my mind often turns to Moitessier, that perennial Puer and most artistic of sailors who threw overboard all inessential ballast mid-ocean that he might free himself of lubberly society and circumnavigate the endless globe like some blissful Flying Dutchman.  But in, the end, his ecstatic flight brought him back to where he began, only able to jettison his restless mind in death.
I see his ketch Joshua aground during a Cabo San Lucas Chubasco with Moitessier fighting to save his legendary ship side by side with none other than Klaus Kinski, Wrath of God. Now there is a scene to rival the most fevered visions of Werner Herzog.
Listen, Old Hand, to the rigging’s tremulous vibrato.  Hear the symphony of sky and sea, the elemental vortex rushing into the void.
I eyed the frayed seams of the jib as the wind continued to rise to 20 knots.  At my back, the wind rushed through the wheelhouse door.  Through binoculars, I scanned the emerald slope of Green Point on the south east end of Spieden Island where antelope allegedly roam, brought there by a Disney executive in some hare-brained scheme to provide sport for great white hunters on vacation from Orange County’s Fantasy Land.
This is the same infernal, suburban land from which I made my own escape. Still, I return to it often in dreams, as if to remind myself that achieving necessary escape velocity requires something less defined than funds and nautical skill.


I am an artist, writer and sailor in the Pacific Northwest.

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