After shuffling through U.S. customs and immigration, I was dumped out at LAX ‘International Arrivals’ where I quickly realized where I was: America, well, Los Angeles rather. Quickly caught up in a cold swarm of hurried people yelling English into their hands-free devices, I looked left and saw a Starbucks less than 50 yards away. Luckily, I recognized my parents waiting to cross the street and ran toward the familiar”¦I thought the immediate shock might do me in, but the look on my mother’s face made it clear that I was home for a very good reason: time with loved ones is invaluable. With Thanksgiving only a few days later, I was treated to an incredible feast put on by Bria and Judy, my brother’s wonderful wife and mother-in-law, followed by some intense Sony Wii (technology is absolutely amazing”¦family bonding now includes virtual hula-hooping and living room bowling!?).
I’d returned with just the clothes on my back, as after a year at sea, climbing coconut tress, and working in the boatyard, not one article of clothing I owned was fit for state-side wear. Thanks to Patagonia, A-frame Surf Shop in Carpinteria, the J7 Surf Shop in Santa Barbara, and my sister, Kathleen, whose jeans I literally wore for 8 weeks straight, I had a fresh pile of garb for my California stint and for the next year at sea, too. After managing to hit a few decent balls in a round of Clark family golf, I made some sections in the Rivermouth on my magic new Pablini quad, too. My wooly, warm Patagonia wetsuit made the reentry into the chilly northern Pacific much more manageable. After crying through a traditional viewing of ‘Heidi’ with mom and sis, I made my way to Portland, Oregon, where I bored a few friends of WEND Magazine with a zillion slides from my trip, did an amazing yoga class thanks to David Howitt, and toured Portland with Stiv and Porkchop. What an amazing city!? It puts Santa Barbara to shame in its aggressively environmental pursuits! Thanks Stiv!After hanging with Hill and Steph in San Fran for a cozy rainy day, Andria and Tiffany, the masterminds behind the ‘Dear and Yonder’ surf film, drove me down the California coast to Santa Barbara. There Heather and I hiked Cold Springs Canyon, I sipped tea overlooking the distant haze-frosted Channel Islands with Barry and Jean, hung with the J7 crew, did Cross-fit training with my brother, rode my seafoam green bike all over town, and tried not to drive my James and Bria crazy with my messes while staying in their glorious guest room.
As the holidays approached, I headed south, where Nicole and Jon hosted me for a ‘Brown Suga’ and a mouth-watering filet of blackened salmon en route to San Diego. Christmas at the Clarks’ was all about love this year. A ‘no gifts’ policy meant less time in parking lots and malls and more time enjoying each other. So good to be together! To my surprise, an extra ticket to a Charger game with my brother and sister meant a true dose of American culture. From the girl barfing in her lawn chair to Twinkies and Pabst blue ribbon and watching my sister turn into a ranting psychopathic football fan, it was certainly unforgettable, thank you Greg!
On the opposite extreme a few days later, I saw Christian Beamish off on his courageous Baja expedition aboard his 18-foot, hand-crafted, open boat–the ‘Cormorant’. He headed into the cold, foggy Pacific, stripped to the basic necessities with only a few good books, some Patagonia super wool, a few containers of lentils and rice, and a Spot device (an amazing and inexpensive satellite GPS messenger for those who like to wander off the beaten path from time to time: check out www.findmespot.com). As he began the adventure of a lifetime, I went back to my parents’ place to sip hot tea as the grips of a wicked winter cold caught hold of me just in time for the New Year. To my mother’s dismay, I grabbed a box of Kleenex and headed off to catch a day powder day in the Sierras rather than nurse my virus (which I paid for during the next 3 weeks with a hideous cough). Aside from a bruise thanks to a minor tree collision and a little ice burn from sitting in the snow straight out of the Jacuzzi, I returned to the coast unscathed. The next ten days in Santa Barbara blurred into meetings, errands, and trying to see all my dear friends in the quickly closing window of time. Somewhere in this madness, I found Marty Spargur my faithful friend and rigger, who dropped what he was doing to help me splice a new wire to rope halyard for Swell. Despite the distracting phone calls from Strand, I spent a wonderful day learning more of Marty’s rope magic. After 5 hours, we had crafted a masterpiece that would (hopefully) slide through the masthead sheave and not chafe through like the temporary one I’d rigged that had broken when my mother was aboard, mid-Pacific. Thanks to Marty’s relentless pursuit of excellence in all the rigging work aboard Swell, I am alive to write about this and have ultimate confidence in Swell. Plus, whenever I run into a problem, without fail, Marty will take the time, despite his own endlessly busy schedule, to write me an email detailing step by step how to deal with whatever grand question mark I’ve confronted. Marty, how can I thank you enough?
Catching up on emails during the pre-inauguration festivities, I noticed the North Pacific seemed to be getting excited too. The swell models went from boring blue to westerly-advancing blobs of red, orange, and yellow”