This week I am reminded of the observation, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” this courtesy of my wife.
“I have a challenge for you,” said Joanna over Sunday morning coffee. “Do you remember when I wrote the following remark to friends?”
And he’s off… Randall sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge this morning at 8:56am. Now I start the countdown to his return 365-ish days from now.
That I could recall, I had provided but one occasion for such a note, that being the first Figure 8 Voyage attempt beginning in late September of 2017. The aim was a one-year cruise around the Americas and Antarctica and home before Thanksgiving.
But the plan failed “contact with enemy,” and though I returned the following July, well ahead of schedule and with a circumnavigation under my belt, I had missed closing the Figure 8’s loops.
In September of 2018, a year after the first departure, I set out for the second Figure 8 attempt. My one year-cruise had become a two-year cruise. I was much the wiser regarding the ensuing challenges, and surely Jo, given the first example, would have been less sanguine of a predictable finish. Her second note to friends would not have made the precise-ish prediction contained in the first…
“Let me help you out,” said Jo, interrupting my train of thought. “It was written on November 9, 2010.”
“A full nine years ago?”
“Yes,” she said.
Then it clicked.
On that date commenced my first singlehanded endeavor—a loop of the near Pacific, including touches in Baja, Mexico and Hawaii, all in my 31-ft ketch, Murre. It was the fulfillment of an ancient, boyhood dream, to cross an ocean, to raise a distant shore after days and days at sea.
But during winter explorations in the Sea of Cortez, I heard other cruisers talking about their springtime destination. To a one, they were headed for the Marquesas Islands. I’d never heard of the Marquesas, but some quick research placed them on the northeastern edge of the French Polynesian archipelago, where a sailor might find other tropical jewels, like the Tuamotus and Tahiti. I had been so focused on a passage to Hawaii, I’d not looked up to see the other wonders in the neighborhood.
Suddenly I remembered Melville’s Typee, and I too was consumed with the desire to head south.
Some time later, Joanna joined me for a long weekend in La Paz. I took her to a hotel, sat her down by the pool, ordered a bowl of guacamole and two Marguerites (both for her) and launched into my pitch.
I had been thinking about the year’s cruise, I said. It had occurred to me that the challenge of a solo jaunt, whose loop only encompassed such proximal trivialities as Mexico and Hawaii, was not nearly rigorous enough. That to be truly memorable, to justify the time invested in practice and planning, not to mention the purchase and outfitting of a boat—that to do it right, the venture needed added difficulty; for example, say, by way of a change of course for remote French Polynesia.
Joanna paused briefly over her drink.
“And how long would that take?” she asked.
“Counting additional mileage, the dodging of hurricane seasons, a winter in the southern tropics … well … it should take only a month to get there but the return will require another year.”
“So, your one-year cruise is now a two-year cruise?”
Quickly I rehearsed the many objections any sane wife would have to such a proposal and the best responses I could bring to bear.
But before I could interject, Jo said, “Well, I think you should do that.”
And that is the true story of how Randall’s first solo cruise of the Pacific included stops not only in Mexico and Hawaii but also the French Polynesia and Alaska.
“So, you see,” said Joanna, bringing me back to the present moment, “I’ve caught you out. This is a pattern. For you there is just no such thing as a one-year cruise!”
The (two-year) adventure of Randall and Murre is recounted in Murre and the Pacific.
Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas
We got eighty feet of waterline, nicely making way
In a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you
But on a midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away
~Crosby, Stills, & Nash
So I never knew that about you…you’ve always been doing “one year” trips!
I really really thought that NOW you would be happy..
Okay with me to follow another one of your adventures. You’re the man.
I’m married to a wonderful woman who did offshore cruises with the kids when they were growing up, and then I found out she is over it. We’re still married. I do some 1-2 week offshore trips, but a year away? I don’t think I would have a home when I got back if I did (something to consider- maybe not all bad….) Your doing it says something, but I’m not sure what.
Oh, so much younger looking – ha, ha….
It would appear you are a sailor. Why do you run from it like you run from the doldrums? What is your fear, you won’t come back? Figure a different way to do it that isn’t so epic. I am tired of your uncertainty about what you obviously know how to deal with….eloquently.
Glad you’re back this morning!
Thank you very much for these written and photo accounts ! Having been on small boat sailing voyages in the Pacific- both north and south, I was completely captivated by your figure-8 navigating; when my sisters this article she sent it to us all, including my big brother, both of whom have accomplished more nautical miles than I. Both our parents have passed, but it was they who established the ability of the many at sea crossings accomplished. Thank’s kindly – and will continue reading these works as they are lucid, inspirational and in the finest of accounting language.