by: Ralph E. Ahseln 10/2014
Part One: The Parallels
There was no reason that the dark storm line should have been out there. A West wind blowing strong and fast, coming at him, bow on! He'd checked the Satellite weather map only a few hours ago and there on the computer screen was a moderate High, revolving it's clockwise rotation, 200 miles ahead. Just where it should be. Light winds leading the Eastern edge with the expected doldrums behind. But, a few minutes ago, he'd watched as the barometer took a nose dive. A stillness had overtaken the boat. A sure sign that something was changing, and fast!
Even though it shouldn't be in the neighborhood, there it was all the same, that black and blue, angry, churning mass of clouds, moving fast, directly toward him. He was going to have just enough time to douse the main, set the storm sails, then secure his personal items below. He decided to light off the galley stove and heat a pot of chili. The hot food could be stored in the big mouth vacuum. It looked like a rough ride was brewing and warm chili out of the bottle would probably be the only thing he'd have to eat this night.
That huge storm line looked dangerous, but he was confident in his skills and the boat's sturdy construction. It might knock them around a bit, but they would just shake it off and continue on course.
He'd done it many times before. This would be just one more adventure in the journey.
The whole sailing idea had started years ago. After a long and brutal divorce, loss of his failing business and as Shakespeare had said "The thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to", The only thing that had been untouched by disaster, was his beloved, " Skälm".
She was an old boat when he'd bought her. The 1978 Hallberg-Rassy, Rasmus 35... might have been pretty when she was young, but the years and bad care had been hard on the boat.
There were a lot of things wrong with it. Friends who knew about such things, had advised him not to get it. "It's a slug of a boat", "She won't point worth a damn ! " and one of his favorites, "She's friggin Ugly ! ". To him, she wasn't any of that.
Skälm, had been all he'd dreamed of. A sloop that a man could relax on. One that didn't demand constant fussing, a sailboat that offered sanctuary. In short, a boat that he could love. And love it he did. It had taken 3 years to restore her, and it was the only thing he cherished. Not his work or any of the ex girlfriends.
He'd been sailing around the Pacific for almost 10 years now.
His "Baby steps" had been to favorite cruising spots for sailors in the Pacific Northwest.
As he gained experience and confidence , there had been some great times along the Mexican and Central America coasts and a solo trip to Hawaii that made the news. Then he began doing passage making cruises. A good deal of the South Pacific had passed under the keel. Those had been the good days with only the occasional bloody nose and bruises that had been naturally attained or that were manmade. Usually precipitated by him. He lived the fantasy. Travel to exotic places, eating and drinking the unusual and above all, having wonderfully wild love affairs without the inconvenience of permanency.
The quick departure this time was done to escape a lover who had that very thing on her mind, his permanent "anchoring". Without saying goodbye, he'd left Portland and sailed down the Oregon coast, pulling into Newport. He was going to stay a few days to restock and water the boat. Because of his leaving in such a hurry, there had been no time to provision in Portland. The only catch was, he hadn't even thought of what the next adventure was going to be.
Barge Inn tavern in Newport has a sign over the front door, "Home of Winos, Ding Bats and Riff Raff". It was his kind of place. Besides the tourists on bar stools sipping their IPA's, occasionally one could see some of local color there too (usually drinking too much). A no nonsense tavern in the middle of a tourist town. You could get drunk there and nobody cared. It was sure as hell, that no one cared about a middle aged guy, sitting in the corner, finishing his third Guinness.
He like Newport. It had all the charm of a trendy town, yet had the smell of old fish and that odd clutter of street trash he'd seen in many of the off beat ports he'd been to. Newport would be a great jumping off place, if he only knew where he was Jumping off to?
The tavern was a half mile walk from the marine supply store. One of the reasons he'd picked Newport was because of that store. Englund's was well known to sailors and a good place to pick up any necessary boat supplies. Even better, it was very close to Skälm's moorage.
The last few days he'd been busy. Besides tavern visits to the "Barge", he had picked up parts and hardware at the marine supply. He also stocked up on groceries from the market up on Highway 101. The local junk stores were full of things that would be useful and he spent a lot of time in them. He had just about everything he needed to push off and go. Now he just had to decide when and where to go! That was the question that was gnawing at him.
He'd been in Newport for 2 weeks and was getting antsy to get away. It may have been partly because of the woman he'd met at the Barge Inn tavern. Like some of his ladies before, she was hinting that he could “share” her condo. He HAD to leave, and soon.
He'd made his way to the "Barge" and even though it was 10:00 AM, he had already reduced the tavern's stock of Guinness by a considerable amount. As he pushed the partially empty glass away, about to leave, it struck him. In a moment of clarity, he knew exactly what his next cruise would be and when. In a few days, it would be his birthday. He would have to leave Newport the next day to make it to the spot he'd chosen.
Fueled and provisioned, and as the sun popped up over the hills East of town, he slipped all mooring lines and motored Skälm out into Yaquina Bay.
An hour later they crossed the bar in a calm sea. The bright morning sun warmed him as he turned left and began the trip South, to what would be their "Starting" position........
Latitude...... 38 degrees North.
* end part one
r. ahseln 10-27-2014