April 7, 1998
Dana Point, California, USA
Yesterday, around noon, I waved a final good-bye to Diane, and paddled out through the break-waters of Newport Harbor. It was my first day on the ocean in almost five months. I know that I have done a lot in that time, but its still hard for me to believe that so much time has passed. I have no regrets... thats for sure. I acquired many friends, I had a lot of good times, and I got the work done that I needed to do. A few people have razzed me about being off the water for so long, but I say screwem. This isnt a stunt... this is my life! Im not going to hurry my life for someone elses amusement.
The paddle here to Dana Point was only 15 miles, and I had a 10 knot wind behind me the whole way. A half hour into the paddle, I passed a tennis shoe floating in the water. An hour later, the other shoe floated by. That was the highlight of the trip. After docking my boat in the Dana Point Marina, I made a few phone calls looking for a place to spend the night. Neither of the people were home, so I slept on the dock beside my boat.
This morning, while searching for a place to get my email, I met Al, the guy whose couch I am now sitting on. Al works for the Marine Institute as a maritime history educator. The Marine Institute runs educational programs for elementary students on a full size replica of the brig, The Pilgrim, which was made famous by Richard Henry Dana in his classic novel, Two Years Before the Mast. Als job is to provide the students with a chance to relive the life and challenges of a nineteen century sailor. Al, and the other Pligrim staff, dress in period costumes, and occupy the cook and officers positions, and the students complete the crew as deck hands. The Pilgrim stays dock-side the entire time the kids are on board, but with a little imagination they will sail around Cape Horn, from Boston to California, and back again; and during the 18 hour seafaring adventure, they will eat and sleep on board the vessel, as well as raise and lower the sails, and do other chores, such as gathering cow hides - which historically was the purpose of the voyage. Each year over 16,000 children experience the living history lesson that The Pilgrim program provides.
Al is a genuine salty dog. The man lives for sailing tall ships. After treating me to supper here at his home, he showed me videos from his sailing adventures, and told me the stories behind several of his lifes artifacts which he proudly displays throughout his cluttered apartment. One item that interested me most, was a pair of shackles he acquired from the movie set of Amistad, a Steven Spielberg film he had a part in. Al played several roles, but his most prominent character was that of a sailor on a slave trading ship, throwing the slaves overboard. I havent seen the movie yet. Hopefully it will come out in video before I cross into Mexico, otherwise it will be at least two years before I see it.
Al has already crashed for the night. Ive got to paddle 28 miles tomorrow... so I better do the same.