June 17, 2010 – Seattle, Washington
By Herb McCormick
Long ago and far away, when Mark Schrader was but a wee lad growing up on a Nebraska farm, on one fine summer day he drew a big circle on a map of the family spread and then hopped on his bike to trace his line. The simple act became something of a ritual. As the boy grew into a man, whenever a matter large or small piqued his curiosity, he’d get out a pen and draw a circle around it. It was a way to bring order, reason and structure to issues and concepts that didn’t always have hard, measurable boundaries.
A handful of years ago, on a voyage with his mates David Rockefeller, Jr. and David Treadway, the conversation turned to the topic of ocean health and changing climates, and before too long, Mark was again searching for his pencil. What he doodled this time was a large loop on a map of North and South America, and the trip it symbolized was something altogether different than a lap around some low, flat cornfields.
Nope, the idea this time was to set sail on what might best be described as an environmental adventure, a long voyage of learning, research, awareness and discovery on a relatively tiny boat. The journey would dramatize and symbolize the notion that the American continents were a single island surrounded by a common ocean; that what happened on the land would ultimately effect the watery world that surrounded it; and that it was in the best interests of all of us to protect and conserve this most precious, life-sustaining resource.
The circle on the map would ultimately be known as an expedition called Around the Americas, and it would come to consume the dreams and lives not only of the three chaps who conceived it, but a wide team of sailors, scientists, teachers and students, as well as countless citizens of that great big island from all walks of life. That circle became an odyssey that left Seattle a little over a year ago, at first bound northward through the legendary Northwest Passage, then southward past the epic Southern Ocean landmark known as Cape Horn, and then once again north for Seattle, where it all began.
Today, just before noon local time, after 382 incredible days and with 27,524 nautical miles in her wake, the 64-foot cutter, Ocean Watch, sidled up to a dock in the familiar surroundings of Shilshole Marina on Puget Sound, to put the finishing touches on what had started as a sketch in a notepad and ended up taking on a life and mission all of its own. What began as a dream – and not at all a particularly reasonable one – concluded with arcs of water aimed skyward from the hoses of a Seattle Fire Department rescue tug. As the mist from the fire boat once again settled back into the sea, there was only one thing to say.
At long last, Mark’s crazy circle is complete.
Fittingly, along with Skipper Schrader, mate Dave Logan, photographer David Thoreson, oceanographer Michael Reynolds and me, the busy typist, for the final miles from Port Townsend, the core crew was joined by a boatload of mates who’ve played a major role in the journey and logged significant miles aboard Ocean Watch on different legs of the voyage. In no particular order, and with sincere thanks to all of them, it was fantastic to wrap up matters with Kirsty Moen, Bryan Reeves, Warren Buck, Dan Clark, Horacio Rosell, David Rockefeller, Jr., Gretchen Hund, Tyler Osberg, Roxanne Nanninga, Bryce Seidl, Axel Schweiger, Harry Stern and Zeta Strickland.
The day started early, at a shade past five a.m., and by the time Shilshole hove into view, a fine spectator fleet had joined Ocean Watch to welcome her home. Kids on the beach waved signs and greetings, and another throng of well wishers lined the docks as mate Logan nestled the steel yacht alongside for the final time. In remarks to the crowd, Mark said, it’s a magnificent highway out there, and we took it.”
Yes, we did. It was an honor and a privilege, the adventure of a lifetime.
At the moment, visitors are wandering through the boat, things are rather chaotic, and the crew is having a difficult time processing exactly what’s transpired. Personally, I’m having trouble figuring out if this has been the longest year of my life or the shortest, and if today is the happiest one ever or the saddest.
In the days ahead, we’ll continue to file stories here on our website with updates on the science and education programs, future plans for the expedition and some reflections on the voyage. So we’ll save our goodbyes for another day. For now, we’re just soaking things in. It’s great to be home.
Okay, one revelation as we roll out the door: Surprise, surprise, we went out to try, in some very small way, to help change the world, and we ended up changed ourselves.
Thanks for reading. The circle is closed.
-Herb McCormick with photographs by David Thoreson
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