Sailing into California: An Emotional Return

Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name, Elizabeth Rose. Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.

Newport, Oregon to Crescent City, California was the longest sailing passage we made and the sickest I ever got.

I didn’t puke, thank God, but fifteen-knot winds and large groundswell every four-seconds made my third-eye tingle and my gills turn a pale shade of green.

I decided early on not to use medicine.

The saltiest sailors told me to get my sea legs the old fashion way – Get sick and get over it.

The cure was helm time, gazing toward the horizon while the ocean air cooled my face.

Another cure was to lie down in the quarter birth in fetal position with a hot cup of peppermint tea and a cube of fresh ginger to chew.

But thankfully as day broke the next morning, seasickness was gone and replaced with excitement knowing we’d soon cross the state line and into California.

California Dreaming

For a year, the dream was to get to California because that meant we had made it down the coast of Washington and Oregon before the hostile winter of the Pacific Northwest set in.

Last year, we weren’t so lucky.

We waited too long and the weather prevented us from taking this exact trip.

But it wasn’t just the weather.

Our boat wasn’t ready and neither were we.

For example, I bought white bed sheets at Bed, Bath, & Beyond to “prepare” for the journey.

I didn’t have a clue.

I just hoped for the best and if I were to die at sea then that’s how my story would end.

But Fate had other plans which, for me, included a long, cold, and depressing winter in Washington without a purpose or a friend to relate to.

Then again, I learned few things:

One, Jason and I can live on a boat and still want to be together.

Two, we gained confidence in ourselves and the boat, sailing around the San Juan’s and the Canadian Gulf Islands.

And three, it gave me room to pause and figure out the trajectory of my own life.

Kids, marriage, it was the first time in my adult life I faced those questions about what I want, don’t want, and need.

I dug to the core of my soul and had scary conversations with myself and my partner.

Jason saw me at my most vulnerable and raw and, existential crisis aside, that dark period solidified us as a couple.

Sunshine After The Rain

Although time in Washington was a huge growth period, there was no way in hell I was going to live through another damp, grey winter again.

“We just have to get to California,” I’d repeat to myself. A mantra, not wanting to think what would happen if we couldn’t leave again.

So we prepped for ten months, working on endless projects to make sure we’d leave the dock early enough in the year to make the dream happen.

And this time, it did.

Crossing Over

The morning we neared California, I climbed into the cockpit just as the sun broke through the clouds.

It wasn’t until then that I realized fog had been with us the entire way down the coast and seeing blue sky again almost felt new to me.

Mountain ridges ran along the shore as far as the eye could see and my heart began to pound deeper with every mile.

I was so overcome with emotion, all I could do was dance it out.

So I put on a life-vest, tethered myself on deck, then grabbed my earphones and played music.

I looked ridiculous but I didn’t care. 

I moved every part of my body that I could, I shook out stress built up from the last year of not knowing what would happen with the trip, us, or myself.

Then I cried.

I cried so hard I could barely breathe.

The little girl inside me, the one keeping her fingers crossed that everything works out, was now free.

California washed over me in a way, transform me, and welcome me home.

I was relieved, euphoric, and at peace.

Wiping away tears I breathed in deep, trying to etch the moment in my mind forever.

And just like that, the moment was gone.

Now a memory hard to grasp, softened around the edges, and never to be felt the same way again.

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