Pacific Passage Aug14


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Pacific Passage

The young crew lolled about the new teak deck waiting for the Captain to order them to work.

He was waiting for the Cell Phone word to come in from the boat’s owner that he and his four guests were on the Dock ready to shove off.

Without the owner and his guests the boat and crew stayed just off shore rocking on the low swells from the south.

It was an excellent little boat, not big enough to call a ship, but large enough for a Captain and a crew of four plus the owner and up to five guests to live almost comfortably, once every one adjusted to the crowding that was part of boat living.

Grant Moore, the owner, had spend three years just working on this wreck he had purchased for next to nothing and now he had something anyone would be proud to own.  Grant really felt more at home with the boat sitting in the dry dock, as for most of the three years he lived aboard and worked day and night making it the beauty it had become.

Early on he had begun to call the trashed old boat, my “Saving Grace”,  In reality the boat and he were saving each other.  Grant had lost his wife and two children in an automobile accident and he had begun to work his grief out by working around the clock on saving this old boat, along with himself.

Three years later he had rebuilt all of the wooden interior over with Mahogany and Cedar.  The metal was polished bright brass in some light fixtures, door handles and hinges and all rails.  He took his sweet time to make each detail perfect, even every board of the smooth Teak deck..

Money was no object, except his desire to spend every last cent the Insurance Company had paid him on behalf of the drunk driver who had caused the accident that had killed his wife, Grace and their twins.

In spite of everything he did to keep on working on the boat forever, it was suddenly finished.   He took “Saving Grace” to the water and out to sea and she moved through the ocean like the gem she was.

What to do with it when it was at sea was almost a problem. Grant, missed working on it.  He even considered selling it and starting over on another one.  But this one bore Grace’s name.  So he hired John to be the Captain of Saving Grace because of his knowledge of the ocean and all boats, so he didn’t have to worry about that anymore.  He would go for a cruise up the Pacific Passage that presented itself  between the Chanel Islands and the long coast of California.   He might be able to part with it then… maybe.

John himself chose the crew of four fine sailors well suited to their jobs.

He took on Jim as his first mate, the man to run things when he wasn’t there and sometimes when he was.

He was smart enough to choose Victoria to be the Galley girl, mainly for her ability to make a feast out of whatever was in the Galley cupboards when the crew and guests were hungry, and she didn’t faint when handed a fresh from the sea, still kicking, slimy, fish.

In between meals she was in charge of stocking the small Galley and store room and keeping everything in the eating area in, ship shape, as they say.

After one look at the beautiful young woman  the crew nick- named her “Galley Queen”.   She went along with whatever they wanted to call her, as she had a good sense of humor, very important, if she was to be the only female crewman.

He called the last crewman the “Orderly” because his job was to see that everything aboard was in good working “Order” from the two large diesel engines to the life boats and the owner’s cabin.  That was why he chose Andy, a young man of many talents, both Engineering and hand-crafts.  His hobby was fixing things that others threw away.

The Cabin Boy who ran the errands for Queen Victoria and delivered coffee or drinks and snacks to the guests was the athletic young son of the First Mate, Jim, as he was the third Jim in the family, he was called, Tripp.

John, as Captain, took care of the Bridge, wheel and Log Book.  All of the crew, including himself, had to understand the sea and it’s challenges, for challenges were what all of the Oceans of the world put up against anything or anyone who chose to invade them.  This very nice boat would be no different.

So now Captain John and crew lolled around waiting to hear from General Grant, as he was called behind his back.  The owner had asked to have the boat stocked and ready to go as soon as the guests and he stood ready.  Then he would have him pull the boat to the dock for boarding.

He had asked, the best man from his wedding and long time best friend, Michael, to bring his girl friend Jeannette for this Maiden Cruise of his long time in dry dock boat.

They had both bravely accepted, knowing that few sailors trust a “Maiden Voyage” of any boat.  As the saying went.  “If something can go wrong… it will.”

They each carried a soft bag of clothing and personal items.  Michael was an ex-navy man and knew the ropes on a ship, even though he had been on one as large as most cities, an Aircraft Carrier, as part of the Air-Sea. Rescue Crew.  He was the one who jumped from the helicopter to save crashed Pilots.

Grant also invited another old friend, Sam and his girl friend, Monica.  Then because he had invited two couples, he gave consideration to asking a lady for himself also, but didn’t know anyone he wanted to ask, so let it go.

The next day he Cell Phoned Captain John and told him to allow Victoria to choose an assistant as he had so many guests for her to serve,  Now the last available space was spoken for.

Victoria  immediately called her sister for the job and Isabella gladly packed the things Victoria suggested and met them all at the Dock on sailing day. She took one look and told Vicky,

“Won’t this be fun?  I didn’t know you were on such a grand yacht.”

Even though Grant from day one called the Saving Grace a Boat. Everyone else took one look at her and decided she was a Yacht!  Yes definitely a very fine Yacht.

“Okay folks,”  Grant said, as he led them aboard up the gang plank, where the crew  stood in line to greet them.  “This is the Captain of my little Boat, John.  Captain John will name the rest of the crew for you.”

“First Mate, Jim, Queen of the Galley, Victoria and her assistant, Isabella, Orderly, Andy, Cabin Boy, Tripp.Meet General Grant’s crew”… John paused as he was flustered at calling Grant that name they only used when he was not there… he looked over at Grant to apologize, but saw with relief that Grant was smiling,

“Thanks for the nice promotion.”  He said.  “Go on.”  So the Captain did.

“Feel free to ask for help or answers from any of us. “  Then he smiled, “Even if we have to go to General Grant, for the answers”  They all smiled at that. The Captain continued with the introductions.

“His guests are.  Michael, and Jeannette and Sam and Monica.”

They exchanged polite greetings, repeating each name as they went.  However for the first voyage Captain John had put name tags, with rank on the crew.

Fortunately Grant had chosen a good weather day for the start.  Andy and Tripp took the guests to their cabins and bunks and soon they were all standing on deck looking into the wind as the boat moved slowly against the wind and the current.

Sam stepped toward Grant to ask,

“May I ask the destination?”  Grant laughed, “Of course we are sailing up the coast of California.”

“I can see that much, I’m an Airplane Pilot, remember.”  Sam said sarcastically, “I recognize California. Where is the first stop?”

“How would you like to get off for a day in San Francisco?”

“Oh that far ?  I was expecting, maybe, Catalina or Santa Barbara.”

“We could take a vote from the others and see what they would like.”  Grant suggested.

The two of them walked the deck asking the question.  San Francisco won.

Soon everyone was on the inside cabin looking at California pass by from behind the wind protection of the windows.  Tripp took drink orders as he put the nacho chips and dip on the tables.

The Saving Grace slid slowly and smoothly up the coast in a manner that was as entirely deceiving as a small boat could be.  Fortunately the crew and guests did not know what was ahead for them, so they enjoyed the perfect evening.

Victoria’s meal was perfect for the cool evening,  with a delicious hot soup and excellent bread from the local bakery, served with soft butter and Peach jam.   Isabella served it like a pro.  A great job for a pretty, young lady, who was more accustomed to being served, than serving.

As they cruised up the Pacific Passage along the coast of Catalina, Grant pointed out they would soon be right at the center of the Island, where there were two harbors  only one half mile apart, if you walk across the land, another hour of sailing if you go to the end of the Island and around it to turn south and return back to the center from the West side.

This low spot of land is served by one little store built on that tiny connection between them.  Most boats anchored on the Eastside only a few miles from the one main town of Avalon.  To get to the other one, you must sail all the way to the end and half way back on the other side.   We have reached that point and could turn and anchor back down there for a night, if anyone is interested in renting gear at the Island Supply Store for a little scuba diving.  I can guarantee that the deep water sights around the island are outstanding, especially the tall forests of kelp.

“I would love that.”  Sam answered quickly, “But I would need a buddy,   You know the rules.” He smiled as he looked at the others.  No one looked excited about going diving so Grant suggested,

“ Jim, our First Mate, is an expert diver and knows this area,”

“Will they bring back a couple of abalone? “   Jeannette asked,  “They are wonderful eating if you can get them.”

“Yes they are plentiful here and allowed.”  Grant told her. “Remind Jim when he gets ready to leave.”

“Great!  If your lady doesn’t know how to prepare them, I’ll do it.”  Jeannette volunteered.

“I’m sure she can.  But Victoria might like the help.”  Grant answered.

The boat was now sailing south and they would eventually be back to the middle of the Island at the Westside Harbor.

As Tripp launched the small motor skiff to take the two divers to the shore dock, Monica asked if she and Jeannette could ride in with them and see the little middle of this odd, long, Island. for themselves.”  She talked about how they look at it from their hillside house and still never found the time to go over and see it.  Of course this harbor was below the horizon, from twenty six miles away, but the feeling was of seeing the entire Island because most of it is a high mountain.

Tripp put the Ladies in the front of the boat and then his Dad, Jim, and Sam came already in swim clothes, ready to dive with a rented wet suit and tanks.

“You won’t see anything from the Dock.”  Tripp explained to the ladies.  “But the walk is fairly short.  No more than a half mile to the other side and the little Store is in the middle.  They don’t stock much.  Mainly they are there to provide air and scuba equipment to the divers…  but also supplies for the fishermen and just some mostly canned staples for the boaters.  The boat people complain though, that everything is stale, but because of the distance from Avalon, the only big  Island town, or Long Beach on the Mainland, they only get deliveries every couple of weeks., so the plain white bread they carry gets pretty stale for sure.”

Tripp handed the ladies out for their walk, while he stayed by the boat to take them back.  The divers would not return until the Air ran out of their tanks.

He took some old bread and cookies from the large hopper where the boaters deposited their bags of trash and fed the birds as he waited, wishing he had been allowed to dive with the guys, but he had his boat duties to attend to.  He loved working on the Saving Grace with his Dad.  They were genuine seamen and felt honored to work on General Grant’s fine Yacht.

Tripp was not surprised to see the Ladies on their way back rather quickly from this little tiny flat place, conveniently only a few feet above water level right in the center, where Catalina Island is so narrow, because it is closed in by steep mountain cliffs on each side, so to go further meant climbing almost straight up.  The entire Island is a mountain which is a mile high to the top.

The flat land up there, features the little  but much used, Airport, which has a strange landing strip that runs out over the cliff at the far end, so you had better be flying when you get there.  Also the plane does not need to climb, as it is airborne so high off of the water at the end of runway that the pilot is soon descending,  if he is planning on landing at Long Beach Airport just twenty something miles across the Pacific Ocean.

Once the Ladies were safely aboard the Yacht, Tripp looked at his watch then wandered down to the Galley to see what Vicky and Bella had going on.  The rowing back and forth made him hungry.  Vicky made him a fried in butter and parmesan cheese ham sandwich. And all the lemonade he could drink, before his wrist watch told him that the guy’s tanks were now out of air and he must row back to get them.

As Tripp pushed hard at the oars to get to the dock before the divers, he was thinking that Vicky not only made a great sandwich, but she was kind of cute too.

He tossed the boat trash bags he had gathered at the last second, into the large metal hopper and stood ready as the men arrived tired and carrying a bag full of abalone.

Jim tossed it into the boat and collapsed too tired to think as Tripp took them to the boat.   Sam inquired of Tripp,

“What did the women do on the land?”

“Just took a walk.  There is not much to do and I took them back very soon.”

The wet divers went below and used the great shower Grant had added to his boat and arrived up top ready to talk about the dive.

Jim asked Sam what he thought of the deep swim.

“It was certainly beautiful!” was his first reply but added with a shake of his head,

“ I could have done without those sharks.  I could not believe how cool you remained as they circled us”

“You were circled by sharks?”  Tripp interrupted.

“Yes, but like I told you, son” Jim told him,  “They don’t bother a swimmer if he stops swimming and sits low to the bottom.  If you are above them in a black rubber wet suit they may mistake you for a seal, and take a bite or two. So sit crouched down low and think like a boulder, then they will swim around you and keep going. “

“That’s easier to say than to do.”  Sam insisted, “If I had not been following you, I might have made a run for it.”

“And missed the thrill of those glaring black eyes and that jaw full of jagged white teeth close up?”  Jim joked.

“I will be happy to miss that thrill any day of the week.”  Sam insisted.

Just then Victoria came in looking for the lost bag of premium breads and pastries.  Anybody here seen the bread bag?  It’s a large size black trash bag filled with our entire supply of good bakery goods.”

“Oh no!” Tripp looked distressed .  “I may have taken them to the trash container at the dock.  I took both trash bags with me when I went back for the men.”  He looked around at the shocked faces.

“I’m sorry, but part of my job is to take the trash off of the boat when I go to shore for any reason.  And I thought they were both trash.”  He stood up ready to run to the little boat for the third time today.

“You took both of them?  The bread and all of the towels waiting for me to wash them.  Now we are out of both!  No more bread and no more towels!”

“I’ll go see if I can get back in time, before the truck empties the large hopper.”

He didn’t.  His heart stopped when he saw the empty hopper.  Just then the truck was rushing by, so Tripp stepped out quickly to try to get the driver to stop.

“Need a lift?”  The truck driver asked, He made a hobby of giving rides on the tail gate of the truck to divers,  who always came ashore exhausted and usually dragging heavy tanks.

“Yes, Please!”  Tripp shouted as he ran to jump on the back of the huge. garbage truck,  just as he had done many times before, when he was a more active diver.  But he spent no time just sitting on the tail trying not to breathe as usual.  This time he scrambled into the back with the large collection of bags and began to look for the black ones.  Then he pried them open and threw them back, not even noticing the awful garbage odor this time.  He was so intent on finding the ones he took by mistake.

“He was relieved to finally find the good breads and sweet rolls.  He set the sack on the end of the tail and hunted for the towels.  As quickly as possible he found and gathered them in his arms and jumped off the truck before the driver could take him any further away.  The driver looked back as the kid departed and shouted ,

“Hey!”   But didn’t stop.  This was the first anyone of his riders had stolen some of the garbage, but what did it really matter to him.  He was taking it all to the dump.

Tripp stopped at the dock and washed both bags as clean as he could. Then plopped them in the boat and rowed them back to the yacht.

A very happy but doubtful Victoria brought out two king size pillow cases and one by one removed the contents of the bread bag, looked each over, and putting it in a blue striped  cotton pillow case.  She didn’t want them to be mistaken for trash again.

Tripp stood and watched her sort the breads to make sure they all had been safely wrapped in their plastic wrappers during their garbage trip. He intended to try to make small talk, but could not think of a thing to say.

Finally, Vicky simply dumped the towels out and told Tripp to take them to the washing machine behind the Galley.  He could even start the washer if he wanted to.  Then she followed him in there anyway to teach him how, but only because she thought he was kinda cute.

The Saving Grace stayed the night at anchor and all was quiet.  Early the next morning while it was still dark, General Grant appeared on the Bridge and suggested that the Captain put the boat to cruising while the guests and a couple of the crew were still sleeping.   He was accustomed to rising early to work on the boat and now felt the same.

Andy brought the anchor up slowly to keep it quiet, while Jim warmed the diesels.  Most of the sleepers didn’t notice the change, but those that did were soon up on the Bridge to find out what was going on.

Monica and Jeannette slept soundly,  Victoria put on the coffee and started the water boiling for eggs as the sausage sizzled in the pan.  Bella cut the bread for toast so was ready when anyone wanted to eat.

Soon the sun began to shine on the slowly moving Boat approaching it’s destination in San Francisco.  The tall buildings could be seen with still lit up windows in the far distance.

Then without warning, the first thing went wrong, as the diesel motors both stopped running.

Andy and Jim both ran down to find out why.  When they arrived at the engine compartment they were greeted by flames leaping from both engines.  At their fast glance they could not tell if they were wires burning  or twin fuel leaks, maybe one of each,  but they  both grabbed the nearest Fire Extinguisher and sprayed the flames dead.

Now they were unable to see enough with the foam hiding the problems to make a good assessment.  They returned to the Bridge to report the bad news… two dead engines.

The second thing had not gone wrong yet but was on it’s way.

Captain John had been on the radio for the weather report.  He walked outside to look both West and South to confirm what he was hearing.  Then he quickly reported to General Grant the different conditions,

In the South that dark cloud, only barely visible,  was bringing a band of wild weather that was moving up along the coast of Baja, Mexico.

This type of storm was very common to Southern California, usually it beat itself out crossing Baja and ran itself out over the Gulf on it’s way to the Mexico mainland or up into Texas.   Only a very weakened storm made it’s way as far as Southern California… usually.

But today, at the same time,  a second storm up in the Bering Sea, passing by Alaska, North-East from us was barreling down past the Canadian Coast toward the Northern States of Washington and Oregon.  They most often blew fiercely over the Pacific Ocean then turned toward the East somewhere North of  Santa Barbara or Bakerfield and traveled in that direction, growing stronger over the Northern States between the Ocean and the Rocky Mountains, where they dumped their water as snow.

The worst case was if they should fail to make those turns and collided just before reaching San Francisco. And that worst case is exactly what they seemed to be doing.  The clash of the two storms could create havoc as far as they traveled.

“So there is a small craft warning out for all small ships and sail boats in the Pacific to make for Port and safety or get as far away out to sea as possible, if you have a large Freighter or Cruise Ship, to avoid being thrown onto a shore somewhere.”  The Captain reported this to the crew and anyone standing around looking at him for direction.

He explained it exactly to his General.

“We are sitting in the very worse place possible…”  Everyone gasped, so he eased it bit with a second possibility.  “But only if the storm does as is expected.  You know the weather,  It does whatever it wants to do and with no consideration of predictions, however, you all ought to know that we need to be someplace else no matter what it does.”

“How can we get to somewhere else with no engines?”  Sam asked.  Things were so much simpler in his Airplane.

“We are going someplace else every single second.  The current is carrying us back South.  So we should turn the boat to travel in the direction we will go no matter what and try to  control where we are going.  If we keep the wheel turned to the East we may pass by one of those little Islands with no name, that are too small to use, but might be large enough to protect us a little bit from the Northern storm.  I saw some close to where the Coast line juts out a little bit at Pigeon Point.  So we will aim for Pigeon Point and keep looking for something that will help us.”   The General nodded his agreement.  This kind of thinking was why had had chosen John for this job.

“ Meanwhile, “  John explained, “ I have informed the Coast Guard that we are dead in the water, floating South with the current.  So they advised that we all put on our life vests and stay up on deck to be ready, if they find someone to rescue us.  We are not the only boat in trouble, so they will get to us as soon as possible.

There was a crashing boom and everyone jumped and looked back where the sound came from. They had been towing the small boat used to ferry the divers to shore and back at Catalina.  Now the increasing wind and high swells had sent the small craft high in the air, crashing it into the back of the Saving Grace.

Sam and Mike rushed to grab the rope and try to pull it on board. As the crew men worked to turn the Saving Grace to the south and try to steer her on the east side of the Pacific Passage, inside of any large rocks or small Islands, where they might find protection.

The next swell took the little boat right out of their hands, breaking the rope and sending the loose boat careening east toward the shore.

“Is that where we would go if we lost our steering?   Mike asked.

“Exactly!” Jim answered for the Captain who was too busy to listen to questions.  He had been trying to keep in touch with the Coast Guard, but now the power had failed along with the radio.

Very quickly, Andy had the life jackets passed around and the group was busy helping each other figure out how to wear them.   While most tried to avoid visions of bobbing in that rough , cold water wearing them.

“It’s just a precaution.” Tripp kept telling them.

Monica and Jeannette did their best to try to look as cool as the two women who worked in the Galley.  Both Victoria and Isabella were busy bundling what food they could into plastic bag packages that could be carried to any shore that they might find to head toward.

“Let us help you with that.”   Jeannette insisted and she began to open the plastic bags to get them ready for filling.

Monica took cups of coffee to anyone looking like he could use one.  Then they took hold of the strong rails to slip and slide with the lifts and falls of the wildly rocking boat deck to move the food bundles to the life boat Tripp had just lifted out ready to launch.

With the little boat long gone, they would only have this one for everything and everyone, if the Coast Guard failed to find them.

Andy came quickly with slim ropes to hook onto the rails for protection against being thrown overboard by a rogue wave.  He hooked each women with the other end, so they would be able to continue stocking the life boat..

Then there was a jolt.  “Oh Oh “  Captain John exclaimed, “The shore is too shallow and we are scraping the sand on the bottom.”

“What shore?”  they all wondered looking around for land and seeing none..  The waves were too high and the little island was not very tall or they were on a submerged hill.

The dark clouds and misty sky made visibility very difficult.  A fog formed to the West where they hoped to see shelter that was usable.  But all eyes tried and failed to see anything beyond six feet away.  Then it happened!

The sand won the boat and brought it to a complete stop.   Now the swells and actual waves broke over the side and sent the two tethered  women sprawling and screaming across the deck to the rails, which they grabbed hold of for dear life,  as the men rushed to get them.

“We must take the life boat and leave this one before it is beyond saving.”  Grant and John decided.  So the men got the four women into the life boat and lowered it into the water, then jumped in themselves,  The Captain looking around  jumped in last.

There were four oars in the large lifeboat and the four biggest men began to pull together almost as soon as they had water beneath them.

Now just like the little boat, the current and the waves drove them toward the mainland,  or so they hoped,  as they knew of no other land.

No land was in view, so fate had them in it’s hands.  They clung together and to the boat’s rails as the sea, driven by the two storms, tossed them about at will.

After some time, that seemed like forever, suddenly they saw a light and the life boat was going straight at it.  The light was filtered by the fog but it grew bigger and brighter until all at once the life boat rose and landed hard on wood.

They sat there stunned by the hard landing.  Then they realized they had landed!

The water drained away and they found themselves resting upon a boardwalk with a row of buildings,  lit up with neon signs and street lights right behind them.

It didn’t take them long to get out of the life boat and stagger toward the shops and restaurants, although closed against the storm, they were real and almost unbelievable to see.  Walking around behind them they found the sheltered air to be much calmer and even better just  beyond,  they could see homes climbing the hill and then the  most wonderful welcome thing of all… a Fire Station that stood brightly lit and wide open in case they were called out for an emergency.

Well this emergency just walked in as fast as they could,  to the complete surprise of the Firemen who had heard nothing,  until the bedraggled group stood staring at them and interrupted their Monopoly Game.

Captain John introduced them all to the Firemen and gave them the name of the boat they had abandoned at sea in the storm.  They couldn’t believe the life boat had dropped them right here.  No one could, especially the passengers of the lifeboat.

Captain  John phoned the Coast Guard to tell them where the Saving Grace was stuck in the sand, when last seen, that is.  Oh and our life boat is sitting on your local boardwalk here in…   Hey guys where are we?”  John called out  loudly.

“ Tell them you landed here in Pigeon Point.”  the Chief called back.

Unbelievable!  John was amazed.  This was where he was aiming… back when he was aiming at all, that is.

The Firemen got the hotel to open for the new guests.  Many occupants had left as soon as the coming storm had been announced, so they had plenty of rooms

The General booked as many as needed, so everyone could shower and sleep in a real bed.

They met again for a late breakfast, during which the Coast Guard arrived to tell the owner of the Saving Grace that his yacht was battered,  but in pretty good shape and they had towed it to the Coast Guard dock north of here.  He could claim it and sail it home any time in the next couple of weeks with free boarding,  After that there was a boarding charge.”  General Grant looked at him and asked,

“What if I don’t want it?”  The Coast Guardsman was surprised,

“But it is still a mighty fine Yacht.  It just needs a little bit of cleaning up.”

“Okay donate it to the Sea Scouts.  Those fine young men will be able to make good use of it.  I’ll pay for them to pick it up and move it to their own docks.  And don’t forget to tell them where that very wonderful lifeboat landed.  They should certainly keep that!”

“Very well. I’m sure they will be happy to do that … especially after they see it.”

He stayed to say a few words to the others,  about how happy he was that they had all survived.  The Coast Guard had  had a very busy night saving people on sinking boats all night long.  “At least their boat  had not sunk from under them.”  He added how lucky they were.  Then he left.  They could only smile weakly in agreement.

“Well I guess some of you just lost your jobs.” Grant admitted sadly, But I am going to get myself a Pilot’s license and buy a nice Airplane.  Anyone interested?”

“I already have my Pilot’s license,  so I am.”  Ex-Captain John told him at once.

“Then you will still be my Captain.”  Grant agreed, “Anyone else?”

“Will your new Airplane need a Stewardess?”   Victoria asked,

“Probably.  You’re on.” Grant agreed again.

“” I can be your Mechanic. “  Andy said hopefully.

“Done.  Let’s just say my whole crew will work this new adventure.  The next time I see the “ Pacific Passage”, it will be from the sky.”  Grant promised them all.

As for his invited guests on the Saving Grace, they would have to think it over.

This Maiden Voyage adventure was far more than expected.   Perhaps they would prefer to stay on “Terra Firma” for awhile.