Last night I packed up my belongings into my trusty yellow truck, hitched the Brocade trailer to the towbar, and prepared to row into the history books....
...and then had to wait another 3 hours while my medic and my co-driver fought their way through rush hour traffic compounded by a car wreck on the I-880. At last, with first aid kit and Nicole finally on board, we set out at 8pm from San Francisco to drive 7 hours north to Crescent City. This small seaside town on the border with Oregon is the nearest civilisation to my official departure site of Point St George.
After driving north through beautiful redwood forests that made me lust for land even before I had left it, we arrived in a cool, damp, foggy Crescent City just after 3pm. We met with Rich Young, the harbour master, who pointed us in the direction of the launching ramp. We launched the Brocade and I paddled over to the guest dock, where my boat will stay until my departure at 6.30 tomorrow morning.
It all feels strangely ordinary. Crescent City is a friendly place, but has the air of an English seaside town in the off season. Our hotel receptionist claims to have modelled himself on Basil Fawlty. We are far off the beaten track. But I love it for its very mundane-ness. A quiet departure with no dramas is just what I want. Then, if I can manage to dodge the reef, evade the spells of stronger winds, somehow manage to stay clear of the California coast, and keep my head together for the next 2-3 months, I might have a hope of making it safely to Hawaii.
[photo: me and Nicole en route with the Brocade]
For over a year now I have dreamed of departing under the Golden Gate Bridge, that iconic symbol of San Francisco. Yesterday afternoon when my weatherman called to say that his stoplight chart is red all the way to the end of August - and possibly beyond - my first reaction was to dig in my heels and carry on waiting.
But seven hours north, he told me, there is a different picture. The stoplight chart shows green and yellow for a window of 5 days from Sunday - meaning gentle winds and favourable conditions.
My stubbornness started to waver. We had done a sea trial on Wednesday afternoon, in 17-18 knots of wind under the Golden Gate Bridge. I had felt how helpless my boat is against strong winds. Downwind is fantastic, but when I'd tried to test my ability to row straight into the wind I couldn't even manage to get the boat around to that angle. Afterwards, as I drove home over the Golden Gate Bridge, I had looked out at the two headlands guarding the exit from the Bay and the gap between them suddenly didn't look so big, and the rocks looked very threatening...
So I have decided that a more flexible approach is called for. Safety is the first priority, and shipwrecking in the first 3 hours of an adventure would be just downright embarrassing. And while I am happy to be patient, I don't want to be sitting here in San Francisco a year from now, still waiting to depart. If I don't leave soon, I will a) run into the winter storms as I get closer to Hawaii, and b) run into officialdom, as my visa dictates that I have to be out of the US (including Hawaii) by November 15. With an estimated passage time of 2-3 months to Hawaii, I need to get moving.
So as of yesterday afternoon, I have a new plan - to depart from Point St George near the California/Oregon border, early on Sunday morning. It won't be the big spectacular departure I had imagined, but it is neither better nor worse - just different. In many ways, a quiet slipping away, with no audience and no pressure, is very appealing. Once I am a couple of hours out into the ocean, the difference will be non-existent. Wherever I leave from, in no time at all it will be just me, my little boat Brocade, and one very big blue ocean.
[And for the practically-minded, my logistics are falling into place too. As I was on my way to the coffee shop yesterday afternoon for a latte-aided decision-making session with my journal, I got two phone calls. The first was from Matson Shipping, generously offering a substantial discount on the cost of shipping my truck and trailer to Hawaii. The second was from Nicole, my wonderful PR, offering to come north with me, on her own time, to see me off and to drive my truck back. The stars are aligning, and the time is right.]
A number of people have asked me recently what music I plan to listen to while I am rowing the Pacific. This question strikes me as a potential minefield. Every person's taste in music is such a very individual thing and it's easy to jump to conclusions about a person based on whether or not their taste happens to coincide with your own.
So it is with some trepidation that I am adding some sample playlists to my website. From these lists you will probably deduce that I am approaching 40 years old, have wide-ranging taste in music, am too young to be a hippie but wish I had been, and occasionally enjoy a bit of good old-fashioned cheesy disco.
And if you deduce anything more than that, you are deducing too much.
So, for better or worse, here are my selections...
To ship one Quackers pickup truck to Honolulu: $975
To ship one customised Brocade boat trailer: $1481