We slipped inconspicuously out of Moss Landing Harbor today, bearing southwest towards Monterey. Only mama and papa Mango, Ken and the resident sea lions were there to see us off. No big fuss or celebration. Our timing with the new moon quietly underlines the opening of this fresh chapter of life, while reminding us whose schedule we are now on. With sails raised and trimmed we cut the engine. Its noise and mechanical madness die out, signaling the end of a month’s worth of non-stop commotion. In its absence the subtle rhythms and motions of the sea are suddenly and loudly perceptible. This stark contrast of calm versus chaos is mimicked within the three of us as well: with no more immediate tasks or distractions, our emotions finally surface loud and clear. Some are easy to pinpoint, like a deep pride in Patience, who has been transformed into a true cruising vessel, our floating island of self-sufficiency and our vehicle from which to experience the Pacific coast line of the Americas at the pace of a slow jog. Others are harder to pin down, like this stew of excitement, anxiety, fear and elation that is brewing over the fire of the unknown that lies ahead. For a minute I try to process it all and am quickly overwhelmed. Better to just feel for now and sort through it all later, there will be plenty of time.
Monterey Bay’s bucolic shore-scape slides by as brisk winds whisk us down the coast. Soon we can make out cozy cottages built into the hillside ahead: we are approaching Monterey, our anchorage for the night. We nestle up outside the harbor as dusk settles in. Temperatures drop with the sun and the faint voices of beach goers fade. We quickly layer up, scarf down a warm meal and set the alarm for 3am. Tonight’s anchorage is a familiar and protected one. In a few hours we will strike out around the Monterey Peninsula and down the Big Sur coast, our first wilderness coastline, and a committing one at that. There is no chance for shelter for close to 100 miles, and precipitous, foreboding cliffs loom the entire way.
The unabashed revelry at having begun our voyage is quickly smothered in the cabin by a candid seriousness. We sit around the table and nervously lay out plans under the dim glow of our oil lamp. Clumsy hands flip through charts with VHF radio sounding off weather stats in the background. Ok, take a deep breathe. Pretend we are planning another foray into the Sierra backcountry to climb a peak. The swells outside shove Patience back and forth, balking at our comparison. The ocean is a much more dynamic medium than any immovable granite promontory they argue. We shrug off these scare tactics and get back to planning: lay out a path, calculate distances, estimate an average speed, do a little math we have it! A pre-dawn start tomorrow will see us hook around the Monterey peninsula and down the Big Sur coast. We will sail through the day and next night and drop anchor the following morning in Morro Bay. This tentative plan injects a solid dose of confidence into group morale. We decide on a four-hour watch system for the next night’s sail and settle in for the evening. Our wake up time is just a few hours away and none of us drift off to sleep without both apprehensive and excited thoughts.