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Post Card from Crescent City

November 7, 2012

After Grays Harbor, Murre and I were held in Astoria for four days, and then another twelve in Newport. All rain all the time and winds, strong or promising to be strong, from the south. In Newport, fourteen inches of rain fell in the final three weeks of October. Gale-warning flags flew straight out above the Coast Guard station morning after morning.

Our escape came last Monday at noon. Two days of sailing and motoring on a dry, almost cloudless, mostly light northwesterly, a wind we’d waited for a month, put us into Crescent City, California at midnight. The watchman called on the radio as we entered, directed Murre to a slip with his flashlight, talked my arm off until half past one.

While he talked, my mind wandered. Five hours out and twenty miles offshore wind had come on strong, bringing a low fog. Without moon or stars, visibility drew close and phosphorescence became the only source of light. Whitecaps burst like ghosts for 50 yards around with nothing to illuminate them but their own energy. When Murre crashed a wave, her spew flew out, a glowing veil. Water or sky or the difference between was but inky blackness. Or no, it could not be seen–except by its effect. Murre heaved and gyrated on a force invisible. Then suddenly, three straight lines of phosphorescence charging the boat, pale tubes like the trace of torpedoes. Reaching Murre, the tubes split, two charged the bow and one circled the stern. Dolphins, come to play in the boat’s wake. For minutes on end they raced eerie paths of arcs and spirals in the near water, now spouting, now charging again into the crest of wave. Never did I see the body of a dolphin, a fin or an eye, only the round and glowing wake left by their movement in the otherwise featureless, heaving water.

Crescent City was a mistake. The Japan tsunami of 2010 sent, some nine hours after its initial shock, a surge wave to this harbor that wiped out the marina. Docks disintegrated; boats sank. Only now, this week, is reconstruction getting underway in earnest. I came here for fuel and sleep. Only the former is accessible. Crews on pile drivers and drills and rock movers work round the clock near the hodgepodge of slips, reconstructed from the post-surge drift, that house the fishing fleet and Murre. I am typing this while wearing ear plugs and still I can hear the kuclump kuclump kuclump of the pile driver through the hull of the boat. What a thing it is to crave sleep, having missed it recently and knowing its near-future short supply.

We depart at 4AM for the 270 miles (two and a half days, more or less) to Point Reyes.

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9 Comments
  1. Michael Pouliot permalink
    November 7, 2012 10:39 pm

    Hello- Thank you for the wonderful blog! Born and raised in Sitka, Living/sailing in SF bay currently. Congrats on your journey home. I’d love to hear more about your journey and chat in person on your return. Sorry to hear about your crescent city experience, I hope you’ll give it a second chance.

    • November 13, 2012 7:39 pm

      Hey Michael, nice to meet you. Good on you getting to live in both Sitka and San Francisco. Though I’m in SF, I’m also away for a few weeks…till after Tday. Happy to get together in, say, December. Hope all’s well!

  2. Unintended permalink
    November 8, 2012 11:12 am

    Congrats on making California. Your trip a metaphor for life? The hard part is at the end. (I always try to contribute something cheerful and uplifting.)

    • November 13, 2012 7:36 pm

      Not sure about its being a metaphor for life…sure is a metaphor for the Washington Oregon coast. Re uplifting, try a smilie face next time… 🙂 See?

  3. November 10, 2012 1:39 am

    OK – so now you are getting close to San Francisco where are you going next because I can’t live without your blog. Excellent work.

    • November 13, 2012 7:34 pm

      Can’t live without my blog? I’m sure we can work something out. How’s about 10 cents a word, and I’ll write what you want? 🙂 Hope alls well with Sage…

  4. Lawrence Killingsworth permalink
    November 16, 2012 4:18 pm

    The paragraph about the dolphins is a master work. Bravo.

    • November 17, 2012 9:21 am

      Thanks, but not half as good as the actual. It happened again on the first night out of Crescent City too, but on that night there was something in the quality of dark that made for less phosphorescence. I don’t quite understand, but even on the night described phosphorescence appeared to brighten as the cloud cover lowered. When it was at its densest, the light show was at its most intense, and when the sky cleared, even though there was no moon, it dimmed. In any case, quite fantastic.

      • Lawrence Killingsworth permalink
        November 17, 2012 9:24 am

        Thanks to you, we saw it too.

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