Drakes Bay. 4:30am. Up with the alarm. Sky to the east, black. Orion, The Dipper, shimmering.
Though I can hear swell crashing on rocks to the south, MOLI, tucked inside the hook of the point, is still as a board. Aground? I check the meter. 18 feet.
Because the peninsula eats the sea, I remember. Jutting out from the coast and down for fifteen miles, the peninsula’s great dunes feast endlessly on those furies from the Gulf. The wind blasts, but the sea is consumed utterly.
Yesterday. Jo drives two hours from San Francisco, bringing a late-afternoon picnic. We sit on a bluff overlooking Mo; beyond, the sandstone cliffs and low, forested mountains. We drink champagne. We eat brie on toast with lettuce wraps of shrimp and cucumber. I marvel at the flavors, at once novel and familiar.
We talk in the uneven bursts of two people being reintroduced. What have you been up to? How’s mom? How overgrown is the garden? The mail comes later now. That property up the hill is for sale. Health Insurance coverage has changed. The kitchen door deadbolt has stopped working. Karen’s niece bought a new car. There’s coffee in the cupboard and fresh cream in the fridge.
Details. One after the other. It’s just the start. A thousand and one small pieces make up the landed life.
I think then of Drakes Bay as a half-way house for sailors, poised between a vastness of sea and a compaction of city. I have sailed 7,000 miles since May. I have longed for home, but I need this half-way house.
The anchor comes up fouled with weed. Finally in its chock. Mo’s head toward Point Bonita. All night the sound of wind in the rigging, a red herring. We motor in light northwesterlies past Double Point at sunup.
The day reveals the peculiar textures of my home waters. A green sea. Faun colored cliffs. Hills of golden grass and oak. Brown Pelican’s diving and joined by gray gulls with orange beaks. A pale, cloudless sky.
At Duxbury Point, I pick up the spires of the bridge. At Point Bonita, I pick up the flood. Mo and I race toward the entrance where, I am told, Jo is on a far hill snapping photos and our neighbor, Mary, spies with binoculars. I wave but without really seeing either.
We are under the red span at eleven–full sail, but motoring through calm–and in an instant all sense of wilderness falls away. Now, here, numerous boats drift about, waiting for the weekend wind. Ferries muscle their way through to Sausalito, to Tiburon, to Vallejo, to Jack London Square. The twinkle of cars flying north on that black ribbon. Over there, Richardson Bay. Angel Island. Alcatraz. Treasure Island. The sprawling Bay Bridge. The impenetrable cityscape.
I know what and where things are. Bluff Point. Ayala Cove. Raccoon Strait. Paradise Cove. Richmond Longwarf. Red Rock. There, the Corinthian Yacht Club has not moved. Neither has the Berkeley Tower nor the Trans America Building. But surely this is my first entrance.
I motor on. Out of Raccoon Strait, I wrap the main and jib. Entering Richmond Harbor Channel, I break out dock lines, stiff with lack of use, and fenders.
Mo slides catawampus into a slip, landing like the gooney bird she is. Tied, secured, she looks proud but uncomfortable, corralled. There is a wildness in her eyes, a shying as she tugs at her braces. We were headed here, she asks?
I have longed for home. And now I am home. And I am happy to be home. But standing on the dock, a hand on Mo’s rail, I think of out there, beyond the gate.
And this vessel can go, I think with a rush. We can really go. Anywhere.