Closing the Circle
Among the friends and supporters to greet us at the dock of the San Diego Maritime Museum was Hall of Fame basketball great Bill Walton, a native San Diegan who'd gotten wind of our story and had been following our progress. It was all quite a welcoming.
It was also bittersweet. Two weeks earlier, the BP oilrig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico unleashed one of history's all-time environmental catastrophes. One morning in Ocean Watch's cockpit, with the morning's New York Times in hand, I looked up from a picture of dead pelicans and noticed the frigate-bird feather from Cocos Island, which I'd tucked in a crack of the pilothouse ceiling.
It all made me feel rather ill.
The accompanying story was about the potential reach of the spill in the event of a hurricane or if it drifted into the Gulf Stream, and the account went to the very heart of the message we'd been trying to convey. We are indeed "one island, one ocean," and what happens in any one place ultimately affects us all. For heaven's sake, will we never, ever learn?
Another bone-jarring series of hops up the coast of California in the teeth of more serious northerlies (with stops in Marina del Rey, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and under the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco) was like watching a boring sequel to the bad movie we'd endured off Baja. We caught a break on the run up to Portland, Oregon, via the Columbia River Bar, which we transited on the calmest afternoon possible. But fittingly, after a short layover in hip Portland, on the trip's last offshore hop along the coast of Washington state, we had one long, bumpy, miserable night at sea.
Then, remarkably, on the afternoon of June 14, the wind and waves lay down, and there before us was Cape Flattery and the lighthouse on Tatoosh Island. We were back at the beginning.
It would be another couple of days before we finally tied up in Seattle, after 382 days and 51 port calls (along with dozens of nights in quiet anchorages), and with 27,524 miles on the trip log. On that very last day, we returned to Shilshole Marina from Port Townsend after picking up a boatload of the scientists, teachers, family members, and friends who'd accompanied us on separate legs of the trip. For everyone involved, it had been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But the vision of Cape Flattery really signaled the end of the voyage. Our core crew-skipper Schrader, mate Logan, photographer Thoreson, oceanographer Michael Reynolds (who'd been aboard for most of the adventure), and me-wandered up on the foredeck for pictures, and moments later, Ocean Watch sailed out of the Pacific swells and into the protected waters of Neah Bay.
It was hard to believe, but true. The circle around the Americas was closed.
Herb McCormick is a Cruising World editor at large.