Getting to the Point

August 30, 2010

Movement is essential, and can come in endless forms- yet movement is essentially formless, and it’s outcome is always uncertain.

For more than one year now, as movement has become the norm in my life, and especially for the last four months, I have been confronting uncertainty with increasing regularity. It’s like I’ve started a new job since losing one, and it appears that my new co-workers are of made of this deeply intimidating “character”. I have been both frightened and awed by working so closely with uncertainty, but I am finally getting to the point where I am no longer afraid of it.

hiking through CoveloThree weeks ago, after leaving Live Power farm and hiking a few miles through Covelo, I was picked up hitchhiking and taken fifty miles by a young mother with her eleven month-old boy in the back seat. This was the first time I had ever stuck my thumb out over a road that was not on an island. It was also the first time I had ever left to travel three states without a car or a ticket to ride. I got two more interesting rides before catching a Greyhound in Ukiah.

San Fran from bus

A grey San Fran from the Greyhound bus- the Golden Gate Bridge beyond.

5 Greyhounds, 5 other species of buses, one floating ferry, a thumbed-Cherokee, and 10,000 Orcas Island feet on foot later, a nice woman who, despite it being nearly midnight, and despite driving the opposite direction and my thumb not being out, turned her vehicle around to offer me and my 60lb pack a ride. A little stunned, I accepted, and was taken the last 4 miles back to Deer Harbor by this friendly Cajun creole teacher- ending the 36-hour, 800-mile tack in this larger 5000+-mile summer’s road-journey.

Getting to the point by road

Somewhere in California

Somewhere in California, a little west of the Central Valley

napa valley marina

A scene from the Napa Valley Marina (and boat yard). I hope to make may way here at some point, but I will likely stay in Redwood City at Pete's Harbor Marina first.

Throughout the miles I rambled on roads this spring and summer, I’ve been contemplating and scheming, unearthing and developing- ideas, broad-reaching and yet hauled close to my chest. The beautiful and unfamiliar lands and roads I discovered in my home state, the warm and dry air, the dust (you can begin to miss dust living on a boat), the time away from my crazy offshore rigging world, and the time with loved-ones were all salubrious and inspiring. The time was sound-tracked and synchronistically enriched for me by a book on “tape” by Eckhart Tolle, “A New Earth”- a concise articulation of generations of accumulated human wisdom.

In contrast, and always lurking behind evolutionary thoughts, however, is “The Real World”: the immediate need for food, health, shelter and good company which is often found tangled up with money and status. Throughout this movement I also explored Bay Area marinas, devised live/work options and reacquainted myself with the rugged West Coast and the chilly NE Pacific Ocean which will be my home for 7-10 days in September.

Oregon Coast lighthouse

Hecata Head Lighthouse in Oregon, overlooking a typical inhospitable shore.

It was all deeply sobering. A rendering of my “real world” scenario depicts me arriving by my mortgaged, moorage-needing, time and money-hungry floating-home to this bankrupt state, unemployed, and essentially broke. Painted in contemporary style, the image is grim. It conjures the frightening spirit of social uncertainty that many in this world are now facing. However, I recognize this uncertainty as that genie which may grant assistance in times of need- in the form of motivation, creativity, and inventiveness. And in not fearing it, I believe it has joined my crew- though I can’t be certain.

The end of this movement by land three weeks ago marked the continuation, and in a way, the new beginning of another, altogether different movement by water. I left the Cayou Quay Marina on July 31st and have been on the move ever since- sailing single-handed, only stopping for a few days at a time. I sailed south 100 miles from the San Juans Islands, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, past Seattle to Vashon Island and Dockton (running errands and saying goodbyes). I then cruised back north up to Orcas, then further north to Waldron, Sucia and the northern-most island I could find, Patos, then back to Orcas.

Getting to the point by water

San Juan Tracks

I used only my sails to move the majority of these miles (thus the zig-zags) and let each day unfold on it’s own. Through this, the allure and true nature of the wind and the water made themselves more clear- that they are an embodiment of physical uncertainty. I began to see my movement as a dialogue with this blind-seer, uncertainty, and each unforeseen event as a unique commentary as opposed to something adversarial or fearful:

flight to Blake Island

This flight from Fauntleroy Cove across the Sound to Blake had "free night" written all over it.

I was barked out of Fauntleroy Cove one evening by a local madman repeatedly shouting, “You want another free night here!? huh?!”. I faced the reality of engine trouble, alone, east of Vashon, and had to rely solely on the wind for a day to bring me to a safe anchorage at Blake Island (turquoise zig-zag). And I had to flee a crowded anchorage in Friday Harbor after the wind picked up at 2am, heading out under a black and starry moonless sky.

The flight north from Friday Harbor

The flight north from Friday Harbor- light just beginning to show in the east.

This last event was a final poignant statement. As I motored out of Friday Harbor into the darkness of San Juan Channel, a strong 15-20 knots of invisible wind behind me, I slowly released my gaze from the multiple back-lit screens showing my GPS position on an electronic chart. The deep blackness of my surroundings began to take form as my night vision returned. The white-capping water in the channel began to show as an electric bio-luminscent blue, sparking and crackling with each crest. I shut the engine off and let out a tiny triangle of headsail. I sat back in my little wooden chair and took shelter from the following wind behind my newly hung weather-cloths and a thick wool blanket.

The sound of the wind and the water, heightened by the darkness was so far from frightening I could hardly stand it. The stars, the countless points, some rocketing away with the tail end of the Perseid showers, the brilliant blue stream trailing behind the Bruja Dulce as we sailed at walking speed up the channel, the knowledge that the sun would rise and the sky would lighten as I approached the spacious anchorage in Deer Harbor- marking the end of my two-week journey to Seattle and back- all of it, in that moment, spoke loud and clear. I wasn’t afraid, nor did I feel blindly invincible, only surrendered. I couldn’t wait to head offshore, to California, to sail at night and to see all those points again on the open ocean, to see Karisa, my family, my friends at Skyline and Live Power, and to simply see what happens- not expecting, only suggesting. It was a final movement in a slow and graceful change of watch in my life, a change that has been years in the making.

I’m not alone in getting to this point.

Tuatara and the Bruja Dulce in Massacre Bat

Kevin's boat, "Tuatara", and the Bruja Dulce in Massacre Bay. Both the boats and their owners are good friends now. I think Kevin got to this point long ago. As he puts it, he's 5 years into his circumnavigation, having spent it all so far in this lovely archipelago.

Kevin rowing us out to the Libertatia

Kevin rowing us out to meet the Libertatia and crew

Since arriving back in Deer Harbor, and reconnecting with Kevin in Massacre Bay, I have been introduced to s/v Libertatia and her crew of five Libertatees. These guys (four guys and a gal) are very special, I dare say blessed, and get right to this point. They collectively salvaged and renovated this 1950’s wooden beauty with the time and resources most in the developed world can hardly recognize: free-time, and free, salvaged parts and pieces. From their early 20’s to early 30’s in age, blacksmiths, boat-builders, farmers, sailors….pirates of the modern day- their treasure is clear, intangible, and free for the taking.

LibertatiaKevin and Libertatees

Tuatara and the Bruja Dulce

Tuatara and the Bruja Dulce in Massacre Bay

The Libertatia, Tuatara, and the Bruja Dulce are all planning on heading down the coast within days of each other. Tuatara and the Libertatia may stop in San Francisco to make repairs and re-supply, but will continue on from there: maybe Hawaii, Mexico….the South Pacific. I feel somehow beyond fortunate to have met these adventurers. Just as I had begun tentatively penciling these notions of uncertainty, fearlessness, and freedom in my mind, these characters materialized and colored in the sketch with brilliant and living color. I truly hope our fortunes favor more meeting, more sketching, more coloring.

I have updated the Ship Log page to summarize all of this summer’s events and movements by water. The details, which are somewhat more to the point, will have to wait until later this year to be articulated, but I do believe I am getting to them. For now, this video, cherry-picking some of the most interesting clips and time-lapse sequences (I’ve taken well over 50,000 images this summer) may give you an idea of my movement.

– The voice in the car is an excerpt from Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth”
– The song is “Peng33!” by Iron and Wine


  1. Love this post, just like the rest. I always find something I can take away and relate to my own life. Good luck on your offshore trip! I find myself thinking about the open ocean a good deal lately.

    • I can’t believe we only met once, Stan- on a cold, boozy, stormy spring PacNW island night. I hope you’ll be able to join me on a future passage….you being smooshy+lolo, or you just being you, either way…
      Yea, and I found myself taking a lot away from your writing about the open ocean…it can be so lovely out there at times…good for the head and heart, and….well, it’s always nice to not be the only dude talking about feelings and stuff.
      Anyway, thanks!

  2. Amazing!!!!!! OMG! You are something else! I loved reading and looking at the pictures and the video. I am praying that your trip will be a fun, safe and exciting one. I love you!!!!!

    • Looks like your prayers worked, Grandma!
      Hope I can return the favor 🙂
      Love ya

  3. wow, somehow stumbled upon this post looking for the address to cayou quay, I spent some time there myself last summer. I love everything about this video! thanks for the inspiration!

    • thanks Kimberly,
      maybe we met? did your sister live on Waldron Is.? maybe you were planning on sailing up there to visit? I was the guy in the slip next to Lee, the official “Dock Guy”.
      glad you liked the video. I made it anchored-out right there in Deer Harbor…
      all the best!

  4. yes we met at least once, and yes my sister was living on waldron for the summer. can’t wait to get back up there! until then there’s the consolation of following other folks’ adventures. happy travels – land or sea!

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