But on the way to San Miguel Island from Cojo Point late in the summer, I take a wave over the stern off the notorious Point Conception. The cockpit is pooped and I’m terrified, bailing seawater as it pours down into the cabin. After this happened in only medium-sized seas, I start feeling nervous about making open-ocean passages in Freya. She’s so small; I can’t even stand up straight inside her tiny cabin. I will hardly have room to bring a surfboard or a friend. This isn’t quite how I envisioned the dream.
When I express my concerns to Barry, he understands and a week later, he’s back with a new proposition. He tells me that if I find a bigger boat and raise some money, he’ll match the funds to enable me to purchase it.
Travel to San Miguel Island Photo Gallery
My father, who just closed a business deal, is instantly willing to pitch in, and we soon find a new boat, just a few rows down from Freya. It’s a 1966 Cal 40 a type of sailboat that Barry himself has owned, loved, and knows to be seaworthy. He assures me we can have a rigger set her up for my slight, but muscular five-foot-four inches and 110 pounds. When I see the boat the first time, I stop in my tracks: A rainbow arches over her.
On February fourteenth, 2003, Barry signs the paperwork to make me an elated sailboat owner. The retired professor and the young dreamer are now set to empower each other toward the same horizon-chasing dream.
The northwest wind blows cold and constant on Swell’s stern quarter, making for a frigid 3 am watch. It’s our last night at sea before arriving in Cabo San Lucas. I pull my beanie low over my ears and praise the biting tailwind as I watch the speed gauge bounce between six and eight knots. Mark and Shannon have already fulfilled their night-watch duties. Leaning against the teak washboards, I soak up the scene around me.
The nearly full moon is high in the sky, illuminating the mountainous southern Baja silhouette to port. The winged-out mainsail and white edges of the deck glow in the silver light. The low whistle of the wind and rush of water past the hull are sweet music compared to the noisy rattle of the diesel motor. Only eighty more miles until we reach the cape.
My solitude frees time to think. It’s still so surreal that I’m actually here aboard my own little ship. It seems all too improbable too extraordinary to pass off as luck. In hindsight, I can see how the string of adversities helped lead me here: I cursed the disappointing job on the Tamara, but thanks to that evening serving drinks on her aft deck, I met Barry; and despite the disheartening sailing trip with Rick, the experience taught me exactly what needed to be done in order to outfit Swell for my limited strength and size. I still don’t know how I’ll manage once my savings run out. I honestly haven’t had time to think about it.