Closing a Chapter

Santa Teresa under sail
Santa Teresa under sail

They say the two happiest days in the life of a sailor are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it. That might be true for some boats, but not for Santa Teresa our old, wooden sailboat. As Jack Aubrey says in Master and Commander, “There’s enough of my blood in the wood to make her a near relative!”

Jan and I have moved to Groton, Connecticut (think “Mystic Seaport” as in Mystic Pizza) to serve a delightful, little congregation with big plans, but it’s too far to bring Santa Teresa with us. It would take nearly six months to sail her through the Panama Canal and up the east coast, or it would cost over $14,000 to truck her there. Neither one is a good option, so after all these years, we had to sell her last weekend to two wonderful new caretakers. (You don’t sell wooden boats. You find someone who will love her and adopt her as we did.)

Today, I am sailing her for my last voyage across San Diego Bay from the Public Docks on Shelter Island back to her mooring ball by the Coronado Bridge. It is bittersweet. People have asked me if we plan on buying another boat. After all, we sold our first boat, a 22 foot O’day named Wanda Sue to buy Santa Teresa, but, if we do, it will take a while. The little church in Groton is going to take all our attention for now. If you’ve ever lost a treasured pet, you understand how we feel. Do you immediately replace her or do you need to grieve a bit first.

As I sit in the cockpit waiting for the last part to arrive to finish the repairs, I am looking her over and reliving some of our adventures from the last twelve years. I think about the first voyage through the Channel Islands and down to San Diego. What vivid memories! Or I treasure all the memories of people we have introduced to sailing. Some of my best memories were just tied up to the mooring ball in the bay listening to music by the light of the oil lamps and dancing with my sweet wife on our tiny ballroom floor in the galley. Yes, there were storms and ghastly mistakes, but those disappear with time and leave us wiser. I think about diving off the cabin top into icy water; climbing back up the ladder and doing it again.

I think about all the lessons God taught us on that boat: faith is leaving the sight of land and following the compass until the island appears on the horizon just as promised. Unity: each of the strands of a rope are terribly weak by themselves, but bound and intertwined, they cannot be broken. Annoying drips need to be attended to immediately before something worse happens. Trust: Be sure of your anchor! Above all there was a feeling of the presence of God as we sailed through the night, our way lit by stars as we were carried along by wind and wave.

Fair winds and following seas Santa Teresa! We will treasure you in our hearts.

View from Santa Teresa
Bathing Lucky after she fell off Santa Teresa into the bay.
Davey, Tom, Brett & Rob
Anchored just south of the Mexican Navy station


We’re Back!

Thanks for all the prayers and kind wishes for us while Jan and I were away sailing. It was the most refreshing vacation we’ve enjoyed together in many, many years. It was just the two of us on our beloved sailboat, Santa Teresa. After stopping at the Municipal Docks (known as the “Cop Docks” because of the Harbor Police office there) where we were able to load our food, supplies, water and a thousand and one other “don’t forget the _____” items, we had a delightful, fast sail south to the Coronado Islands just across the border in Mexico.

The Coronados are a wildlife refuge and while you can’t go ashore, you can watch over 60 species of birds and 3 types of seals and sea lions. They say the fishing is great but we were too busy doing nothing to fish. (Now that is saying alot!) On the third day, we hoisted our anchor and had another wonderful sail to Ensenada, Mexico. While it is only 70 miles from San Diego, if felt like a million. We stayed at the Baja Naval marina where we were hosted in a most delightful way. The food, shopping and especially the people were truly wonderful. What surprised us was how uncrowded it was. Every three days a cruise ship would pull in but they stayed in a very small district and gave us the rest of the city.

Besides sea food, we enjoyed sidewalk cafes and coffee and nothing tastes better than hand-dipped ice cream on a hot August afternoon. We had time to sleep, read books, meet interesting people and do a whole lot of nothing. It was delightfully decatent!

From Ensenada, we sailed south between Punta Banda and Isla Todos Santos and on another fifty miles to Santo Tomas where we discovered guidebooks don’t always give good advice. The picture of the anchorage on the internet looked great but we we arrived it was open to the weather and choked full of kelp. We tried vainly to anchor three times but eventually gave up. We did collect an amazing harvest of kelp on our anchor and sailed north through the night back to Ensenada drawn on by visions of garlic shrimp and Cerveche.

Finally we had to come home so we slowly did the “Baja Bash.” (The wind and the currents run north-south so a sailboat has it’s work cut out for it going north!) Even though we started north at midnight when the winds were calm, we still fought corkscrew seas. On the other hand we met a curious “little” blue whale Jan dubbed “Sally” who swam with us a way. She was longer than our boat and was very curious. Sally would roll up on her side and look us over before crossing our bow and swimming down the other side. Her spout was enormous and when she finally sounded, she left a hole in the ocean. We also saw two different species of dolphins and a couple more varieties of whales but by the time we anchored by at Isla Coronado, we were truly spent.

Thursday night, after we had been in our bunks for a couple of hours, a large American sportfishing boat pulled up alongside and hailed us. A 30 year old American tourist had rented a small, sit-on-top, kayak at Rosarito Beach and had gone for a paddle into the big blue ocean. Unfortunately the wind and the waves that we had fought all day north, caught him and carried him out to sea. Perry was in shock and blistered by the sun. Can you imagine what it would feel like to paddle against the Pacific, alone, for eleven hours? Just as the sun went down, he was spotted by the fishermen and brought to our sailboat. Jan filled him with soup and drinks and we tucked him in bed while stowing his kayak and paddle on board. We contacted the Coast Guard and they asked us to bring him along with us to San Diego the next day. We thought he might have a problem clearing Customs without a passport or ID (those were left as a deposit for the kayak in Mexico) but the blisters on his shaved head and the glowing red burns on his legs apparently convinced Homeland Security his story was true.

All in all, it was a most wonderful vacation and I’ll be sharing some more of my meditations on the Holy Spirit from the book of Acts tomorrow. Thank you for your prayers and patience!