Sunday, July 8, 2007



Leaving town was so unpleasant.

We had a fun party on our boat the night before we left, just seven friends and us sitting around the salon. We put up some decorations that we use for birthday parties aboard so that things would remain festive and not descend into a dreary prolonged goodbye. It worked. Some time after midnight we turned on the red night-vision lights for atmosphere and people stayed until two in the morning, talking beneath the red lights and drinking cocktails. It reminded me of the best part of Kodiak, the social life that used to support parties where lots of liquor was drunk and the conversation roared and subsided all night. We and our friends had lots of parties like that three or four years ago, and then gradually stopped. But over the last few weeks we spent almost every evening with friends.

Our departure day was a jumble of painful goodbyes and last minute jobs that went on all day. It was raining intermittently, hard, and a south wind blew the barky hard into the dock so that I wondered if we’d have to pull ourselves off with lines. Ian and Rich MacIntosh came down to say goodbye. Patty and John Mahoney came down to say goodbye, and Patty gave us an Aluutiq spirit pouch that whalers in kayaks used to wear around their necks, carrying a little pinch of Kodiak soil to ensure their return to land. We filled ours with a little piece of Kodiak to bring us back safely. Zoya came down, carrying her five month old, Stuart, with one hand and holding on to two year old Nora with the other, staring in through the portlight to see if we were around, her hair blowing across her face in the rain. Carrie Worton came down with her two kids and took the title and key to my truck to pass along to the buyer. Gregg Rosencranz came down too, and Lisa and Bill, and we all walked up to the parking lot. When Alisa hugged Carrie goodbye she told her she’d miss her, and then as we drove away, Alisa said to me, tears running down both cheeks, “Carrie’s one of the people that I’ll probably never see again.”

And then we dropped off the truck and had yet another tearful goodbye after Sara Persselin drove us back to the boat. It wasn’t blowing too hard anymore but the clouds were thick and just above the water, cutting the verdant island off low and making Kodiak look more than ever like the Aleutians. Then Mark came by and gave us some fish, just like he did the day he delivered Elias, and we left. Elias was crying and Alisa was cooking dinner and I was getting last minute things ready while the engine warmed up. Then I cast the lines and pushed off and as I accelerated backwards out of the slip Alisa came up the companionway with wide eyes, wondering how I could have just gone ahead and cast us off on this odyssey without involving her.

She called John and Patty to say we were coming up the channel and when we reached their house, drinking in the view of Kodiak spooling by that we had both watched from different boats so many times, they came out front to wave goodbye to us. I turned out of the channel to go around the south end of Woody Island and looked back to wave at the little figures of Patty and John, waving with both hands over their heads in the rain. And that’s how I remember leaving Kodiak, looking back to see those two waving people, with the Island so green, and so many mountains, and the town so small.

Motoring out of the Kodiak channel.

Jay and Steph and Elise were waiting for us on their boat at Long Island. We visited for a while the next day and then they left to go back to town, one last painful waving goodbye. It was still foggy and rainy, and late, and we decided to stay put. The head backed up and Alisa took the pump apart to unclog it, the worst job on the boat. As I write the cabin heater is down and the high today was 46 degrees. Rain beats on the cabintop and condensation forms on the insides of the hull, getting everything wet. We are simultaneously lonely and too crowded, buried by baby gear on this little boat. “This is a big undertaking,” says Alisa. “It just doesn’t seem possible that we can sail to San Diego.” I feel the same way. “All those guys who say they would do this but their wives won’t let them don’t know how good they have it,” I say. “They miss out on a lot of work.” We have been working hard for this moment for years. Now it is here, and we feel that we’ve bought ourselves nothing but uncertainty and a kernel of fear in our stomachs. And, cruel irony, we’re only five miles from town, listening to the Kodiak public radio station.


We stayed anchored up at Long Island for two and a half days, waiting for lumpy east weather to lay down before our green crew crossed to Afognak. It was the strangest limbo, simultaneously missing Kodiak and being able to see town, relieved to be gone but also dumbfounded at the thought that we could ever pull off the trip to Oz in that wet, cold boat hopelessly crowded with baby gear.

As a gesture towards crew morale, I declared a day ashore on Long Island, and Eli got to wear his lifejacket and ride in the dinghy for the first time. Note the attire for late June at 58° N.

1 comment:

  1. M & A: your remarks about leaving Kodiak made me think about my own sadness at departing. A great sendoff by friends, followed by the depression of acknowledging the loss. Leaving on a plane was a lot less dramatic, but I knew I'd never see my house (of 19 years) again, and didn't know when I'd see my wife or daughter. Leaving the known world behind and heading off into the unknown is difficult but necessary. Easy to do when we're young, harder when we're older. I admire and envy you both, going off on such an incredible adventure. I would love to do it, but don't have the stamina or patience anymore. Thanks for the blog, it lets us live vicariously through you. Good luck and keep sailing.