Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name, Elizabeth Rose. Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.
So, we took a left.
A legit left.
Out from the Strait of Juan De Fuca in Washington and into the Pacific.
Our only timeline was to get down the coast of Washington and Oregon before winter piles in, the way it did last year when we attempted the same voyage. (You may remember my leave-it-to-fate stories that led not to a sailing adventure but an existential crisis.)
This year, my attitude was different.
There was no “finality”. No, this-is-the-last-time-I’ll-walk-on-land type of drama.
This time, I have a sailing certification under my belt which means a helluva lot more knowledge and confidence.
And thank goodness because I needed it.
Especially when we decided to skip the last harbor and just go for it.
Just Do It
We didn’t expect we’d actually do it when the alarm clock came on at five-thirty that morning. Docked and cozy in the Port Angeles, WA marina, we figured we take a few more days until we took “The Left”.
But, the alarm went off and Jason grabbed his phone to check the weather. According to NOAA, the decent weather window was now so we dressed quickly in warm wool layers and foul weather gear, then Jason fired up the engine as I fired up the kettle.
As Jason steered us out of the harbor, I made a quick breakfast of oatmeal with dried fruit and two strong cups of coffee.
The day progressed into sunny skies and calm waters and we cruised along while salmon jumped and dolphins playfully swam alongside as if on cue.
Around two thirty, we approached Neah Bay, the last harbor before the Pacific.
“We can pull over at the harbor and readjust,” Jason said, pointing to the harbor only a few miles away.
I thought about it for a second but felt if we stopped, we may think too much about our next move and delay the inevitable.
“Or, we can head on,” I said. “We have enough fuel, food, and water and the weather seems decent for the next twenty-four hours. Let’s go for it!”
Jason took a moment, looking one moment to Neah Bay and the next to the edge of the straight, picking his cuticles the way he does when he’s thinking really hard.
“Ok,” he said. “Let’s go for it.”
Taking “The Left”
The water changed as we crept toward the edge of the straight.
The groundswell grew into small rolling hills and the sea turned a deeper shaded of blue.
The choppy waves we experienced the past two days seemed to culminate into a melody of water and wind so the three of us – Jason, myself, and our sailboat, Astrologer – danced along.
“Is that the Pacific?” I ask Jason, the butterflies in my stomach floating up to my chest.
“Yep. All of this is the Pacific!” he said with his arms spread wide.
We soon passed the Cape Flattery lighthouse at the very tip of the strait, then looked at each other with beaming eyes as we pushed the tiller (a lever for steering) to turn south.
“Thank you for coming on this journey with me, lover,” Jason said.
I looked at him as a big smile stretched across my face. “Thank you for inviting me!”
We kissed then held each other close as our minds tried to comprehend how far we had come and how much farther, God willing, we have to go.
No Turning Back
When you sail into the Pacific, a transformation takes place.
Similar to the feeling you may get on the cliffs of Big Sur or leaning over the edge of the Grand Canyon.
It’s the kind feeling that leaves a knot in your throat, tough to swallow when you realize how small you are compared to the great beyond.
But to be on the beyond, drifting at its literal mercy, is quite another experience.
The knot in your throat travels down to your fingertips and makes them tingle knowing the only safe haven is your tiny vessel, a bug to be squashed by the hands of the ocean if she so chooses.
I was humbled, happy, a bit terrified, and in awe of the wilderness.
I felt like a shy kid meeting an adult for the first time, peeking over my shoulder then turning away, slowly acquainting myself with the strange expanse of the sea.
Then, before you know it, the sun creeps down below the horizon and night falls.
And it’s just you, in the middle of nowhere, alone in the dark.