Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Shiriri Saga #26. Monterey.

Three weeks after arriving in San Francisco determined to have a long and relaxing rest, we determinedly head back out under the Golden Gate and turn left once again to begin a series of day sails south toward San Diego: each night a different harbour. Three days later we drop our hook off the Monterey docks and row ashore in Edith. We find a beautiful town with some of the old Mexican heritage still in evidence.

We are practicing the “new port” skills that we will learn to use effectively over the next few years. We soon fill our propane bottles, thanks to the help of some friendly strangers with a car, and learn where we can bring Edith in to a free dinghy dock. Now we need to do free e-mail at the library to check on our family back home. I look at the books as Heather and Gwyn do their computer thing. Suddenly Heather turns to me with her eyes wide. Does she shriek? I cannot be sure! There is a letter from Penguin Books saying they want to publish The Patti Stories that she had finished way back in that other life during our productive winter in the underground house. Plus they want a sequel!

We wander around a park chattering excitedly, and then see “Patty`s CafĂ©”. We take it as a sign and go in for a celebration!

Back at Shiriri we find another yacht anchored beside us and meet Jim, single handing it on Wylie E. Coyote. We will get to know Jim very well over the next year as we cross the Pacific to Tahiti in his company, but for now we begin to get acquainted in a practical way as he puts his radio skills to work fixing our expensive marine HF radio that has worked very poorly up till now. Jim is a Viet Nam war vet and, as we will discover, has other interesting attributes as well! This casual meeting of strangers in other boats and the camaraderie that develops, the way we help each other with little useful things or big life threatening events is a big attraction of the cruising life and will be a difficult attitude for me to lay aside again once I`m back on shore.

Next morning the VHF weather radio that we keep a careful ear to at all times warns of big swells from a winter storm in the north Pacific about to reach our shore. We are anchored in thirty feet of water which could be a surf line in a little while: already we can feel the waves building beneath us. We find there is room for us at the dock and quickly raise anchor and motor in through a narrow opening past a fancy yacht that sports a large sea lion lolling on it`s scoop stern.

Once in among the dock fingers full of boats we feel the surge from the swells that causes the water to swirl around in a most disturbing way. One second we are stopped by a current on our bow, the next we careen ahead as it reverses direction. I have Gwyn poised to jump for the dock with a line to tie us quickly into place when we must make the final tight turn into our slip. I steer our monster boat (or so it always seems, when tight in among other boats with her bowsprit sticking way out in front) up a narrow channel, pause to catch the current just right, and start to turn. At the critical moment there is another big sea lion just where she must jump! I gently butt our bow against the inside end of the slip and hold Shiriri firmly in place with the engine and rudder until nearby boaters rush over to chase the creature away and take our lines. Phew! Once upon a time, this morning`s exercise would have been cause for more than a wiping of the brow, but now we simply make sure that Wylie E. Coyote has also made it safely in, cinch up our dock lines very carefully, add a few more, (the surge is now very noticeable) and finally trot up the dock to the marina showers that we can now use as part of our very reasonable dock fee. When we leave for a walk a few hours later, there are people surfing where we had been anchored. This afternoon, a couple of vacationers will be killed by these waves while walking a little farther up the beach.

We walk down the Pacific Grove street on a sort of pilgrimage: this is John Steinbeck`s real Cannery Row and we need to touch this place. We stop in a moment of recognition and say, “ Hey these are the train tracks, there is the corner, where his friend Doc. was killed by the train!” The tourist trade has used Steinbeck`s name of course, but still there is enough of the old town for us to feel the presence of the past and to thank this author for passing on his very human perspective on the world. Soon we too will be following his and Doc`s old course down the coast to the Sea of Cortez.

Death by misadventure: in the past for Doc., very close to us off Mendocino, and too final for the honeymoon couple who died while our backs were turned this afternoon. We are now living a life where the well defined borders between us and the man with the scythe have become frayed. We are getting used to living on the edge.

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