June 24, 2010 – Seattle, Washington
By Herb McCormick
It’s been precisely seven days now since Ocean Watch and her crew stepped ashore at Seattle’s Shilshole Marina to close the circle on the expedition Around the Americas, and in a lot of ways, the last week has been a whole lot stranger and more bizarre than the fifty-five – the length of the voyage – that proceeded it. The core crew of OW – never known or described as paragons of organization – has been a good deal more disoriented and discombobulated than usual, which is saying something. But the truth of the matter is finally becoming crystal clear: There are no more provisions to be laid in, courses to figure out, or watches to stand.
We’re home, and it’s good to be here. Um, we’re pretty sure.
The hardest part of an extended voyage, as many sailors will attest, is finishing it. You think, feel and act differently. Your internal clock, once set by the wind and the waves and the rhythm of shipboard life, is now governed by the uncontrollable, inconvenient and external realities and pressures of a 9-5 schedule and rush-hour traffic. You look at the world, and particularly its trials, travails and trivialities, in an altered and bemused state. Or at least you try to. The trouble with all this, of course, is that society hasn’t changed, even if you have. And if you can’t deal with it, that’s your problem, and nobody else’s.
We’d been back precisely two hours, after much attendant hoopla at Shilshole, when skipper Mark Schrader, dropping me off downtown, was pulled over by a Seattle cop because the registration tags on his Volvo had expired. Granted, being a policeman is not an easy job, but by any standards, the officer was a particularly dour sort. Anyway, I have to say that the irony and timing of the situation, the deathly serious attitude of the totally miserable policeman – after all, this wasn’t a bomb in Times Square – and Mark’s understandable frustration with all of it struck me as fairly hilarious. Mark failed to, uh, share my mirth. Welcome back, Kotter? Nope, welcome back, Captain. Have a nice stinking day.
In any event, due to a veritable whirlwind of activity, as we got onto the business of wrapping things up, matters improved measurably within fairly short order.
First off was a reception and dinner at Pacific Science Center, a wonderful affair where we caught up with oodles of friends, family and supporters. The next day was a Marine Health Symposium at the Applied Physics Lab of the University of Washington, with presentations from many of the scientists we’d partnered with on projects during the course of the expedition – it was great to reunite with them and learn more about their ongoing research, and our role in it. Finally, there was a big Open House at Fisherman’s Terminal followed by a public presentation at PSC’s Eames Theatre. David T’s photos were sensational on the big IMAX screen.
And then, our official duties – presto! – were over. The Aussies have a great saying about the passage of time: From go to whoa. Suddenly, the go was gone. It was all about the woe. I mean, whoa.
Since then, we’ve been lugging gear off the boat; emptying the fridge and freezers (chicken, anybody?); hauling more stuff off Ocean Watch; trying to assimilate into some kind of routine that resembles our former lives; and ferrying tons more gear off the yacht, whose waterline seems to rise considerably with each passing day.
When I sat down to write this little missive, I did so with the full intention of trying to sum up the experience of sailing Around the Americas. But…I can’t. Not yet. Like my mates and brothers in this crazy adventure, I’m still numb by all of it. Please bear with me (and us) for a little while longer. I’ll post another update, a reflective one, early next week, with details on new content for our website, which will remain active and vibrant, and other matters, including the latest news on book and documentary projects and related issues.
For now, thanks to everyone, but especially those who’ve stopped by the boat or sent emails, letters and messages to us since our return to Seattle. We’re honored, grateful and humbled.
And, you know, confused. As it turns out, the voyage was the easy part. Coming back? Well, that’s a good deal more complicated.
-Herb McCormick with photographs by David Thoreson
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