Course and Speed: Uncertain

November 5, 2019

Days since return: 15

Noon Position: 37 46N 122 08W

Miles Since Last Noon: 5 (a walk in the Oakland Hills)

Course and Speed: uncertain

I thought I had re-entry figured out.

After a longish cruise for home, I anchor awhile in Drakes Bay before proceeding on to civilization. From here the city is close but still at arm’s length. On a clear day, I can see Twin Peaks and the Richmond District; at night the glow of San Francisco fills the southern sky, obliterating even the constellations. 

But my near view remains dominated by the more familiar rugged and raw, like the rocks and sun-parched hills of the coast that were already ancient when the first European explorer anchored here five hundred years ago. And the sea, the main attraction, the master of both emptiness and fullness and the revealer of all beauty–it is still just past that point. 

This stopover allows a brief moment of pause between one world and the next and prepares me for the interruption and inundation, the constant hurry and white noise that is the everyday wardrobe of urban life. 

But not this time. This time something has changed.

I don’t mean to suggest that I am unhappy to be home. I have dreamed of a successful return, of slow mornings in the sunshine of the back yard, cooking dinners with Joanna, the song of passerines, the color green. All of these are as grand as anticipated. 

But this time there is a subtle difference, and I suspect that difference has to do with the nature of the endeavor. From my perspective, part of the Figure 8’s appeal was that it dipped into an epic flow; it had aspects to me of an Odyssey. For a year and more I was an astronaut exploring an infinity of sea-space; I achieved escape velocity, visited alien worlds, saw “things you people wouldn’t believe,” to quote Roy Batty.

But now I have been There and Back Again. The epic has run its course. After a year of being the only boat on the horizon, I am, and suddenly, just another car on the road. I am, again, a regular Joe.

Being a regular Joe is not at all disagreeable, but it’s a bit like jumping into a cold pool. It takes some getting used to.

So it was with relief that I found myself invited on Monday to be a part of someone else’s epic.

Bluewater sailor, Bert TerHart, set out from Victoria, BC, just a few days ago to circumnavigate the globe via the five capes solo and non-stop in his 44-foot sloop, Seaburban

Then, as they do, the fates conspired.

On his first full day at sea, Bert took a glance toward the cockpit and noticed that the Monitor’s airvane had gone missing. Though locked down tight, it had escaped its notch and slipped over the side. Bert quickly swapped in his spare vane and continued on, but soon after, strong northerlies and the sea that accompanies them produced in the fuel tank a rumbling sound akin to that of a bowling ball in the bilge. 

Down to one vane and hosting the thunder of Zeus below the floorboards, and all this within the first week, Bert thought it the better part of wisdom to change course for problem-solving resources in San Francisco before continuing on to remoter latitudes.

Here the local Ocean Cruising Club Port Captain, Rick Whiting, introduced Bert to Cree Partridge of the Berkeley Marine Center. Hours of assessment and dire mumblings later, all decided that the noise was not what Bert feared, a baffle busted loose and gone rogue, but rather the sloshing of a very full tank in an unusually boisterous sea. 

Meanwhile, I ran to the Scanmar International shop and picked up a few spare vanes from manager, Suzy Savage. Then in Berkeley, I met up with Bert and Rick on Seaburban.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Bert. “After months of careful preparation, to have let the airvane go AWOL on my first day!”

Luckily I was able to relieve Bert’s guilt by relating some of my choicest bonehead maneuvers (I’ll spare you the catalog here). 

“I spent a day imagining how to fashion another spare from materials aboard, and I figured I could do it too, using the boat’s headliner. But then the tank began its mysterious rumbling, and I thought I’m so near San Francisco—and here I could get a new vane from the shop where they are made! I desperately wanted to keep going, but I thought it was better not compound one mistake with another.”

Seaburban is an OCY 45 built in 1987. “Based on the Reliance 44 hull, she’s a go-anywhere Cruising Club of America design by Pierre Meunier,” states Bert’s site. Up close, she’s sleek of sheer, flush forward of the mast and smartly set up for shorthanded sailing. Below she is both comfortable and seamanly, with small, cozy berths, a workable galley, numerous handholds, and a minimum of open space.

After a full tour of a very able boat, Bert and I withdrew to the nearby Chillies for a beer and some much needed (on my part) sailor talk. 

Follow Bert at on Facebook:

Bert’s Tracker:

Bert’s tracker showing him underway after a brief San Francisco pit stop.

9 Comments on “Course and Speed: Uncertain

  1. I imagine life will never be the same. In a good way. You did it man. You did it.

  2. I get a little wave of exhilaration to see another Fig 8 post in my Inbox! After all, we are feeling the mundane as well and quick flash of memories of your voyage and how re-entry must feel is part of each of us as well. The writing just keeps getting better, just when I thought it couldn’t. I think your writing transitioned from ‘show and tell’ to voices from the soul with all the flourish that a soul inspires.
    Wishing you both many happy, however mundane, days ahead.

  3. I’m reminded of a passage in Jon Krakauer’s book “Into the Wild.” Like McCandless, Krakauer also took chances when he was young. He solo climbed Devil’s Thumb in Alaska, a very challenging ascent. He had a scary close call, continued, reached the summit. This blog entry reminds me of when Krakauer is back in town eating alone in a diner. He looks around and thinks something like ‘I was on top of Devil’s Thumb yesterday and now I’m just another guy in this diner.’ He has an urge to stand up and shout “I climbed Devil’s Thumb” but doesn’t.

  4. Epic it was. I well imagine it is going to take some time to settle in, if at all.
    Welcome back Randall and thanks for the ride. Very much enjoyed and it fueled a few dreams as well 🙂

  5. Just SLOW DOWN Randall 🙂 …I mean really slowdown .. GGR 2022??? …well done and all the best hey!! ..Enjoy…

  6. Welcome home Randall. Saw your orange top mast at KKMI yesterday. Hope you are making the adjustment to land.

  7. Thank you for continuing to post on your blog since completing your voyage. I enjoyed following your jouney and had worries and concerns for you at times and was very happy to see you safely return. But i also worried that when it was over with if we would continue to hear from you, It is fascinating to hear about your re-entry and to hear about your feelings on that. You took us around the world via the Southern Ocean and thru the arctic on a very challenging voyage.Thank you.

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