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.