June 29, 2010 – Seattle, Washington
By Herb McCormick
Precisely one year ago today, the 64-foot cutter, Ocean Watch, had just passed the 60th parallel en route from the Aleutian Island fishing outpost of Dutch Harbor, en route to another famed Alaskan port called Nome. Smack dab in the Bering Strait, the crew was enjoying a spectacular summer day, with a radiant blue sky reflected in a calm, almost mirror-flat sea. One month into our hopeful voyage Around the Americas, the reality of the quest – and the burgeoning regime and routine it would take to pull it off – was truly beginning to settle in.
It was like that famous line from the Wizard of Oz: Figuratively speaking, we weren’t in Kansas anymore. But the reality of the situation was that we were all a long way from home, from places in Iowa, Nebraska, California, Washington and Rhode Island. And we wouldn’t be getting back there anytime soon.
Today, of course, the journey is over; Ocean Watch is bobbing at a dock, getting a well-deserved rest; and this will be my final crew log (220 preceded it). For a sailing writer, chronicling this voyage in a daily, serial fashion has been a rare, special opportunity, and it wouldn’t have happened without a list of friends, supporters, sponsors and family that is too long to list here. The same goes for everyone who sailed aboard Ocean Watch, especially the core crew. On behalf of us all, thank you. And thanks also to everyone who followed the trip, especially the students who joined us from their classrooms. From everything we saw, the future is in extremely good hands.
There are a million things we could add here, but for now, let’s address some rather open-ended questions, ones we’ve been asked on numerous occasions since wrapping up the voyage about a fortnight ago.
What’s going to happen to Ocean Watch?
Ocean Watch will be spending the summer at Shilshole Marina in Seattle under the watchful eyes of Andy Gregory, who was a key member of the refit and shore team, and first mate Dave Logan, and will receive a lavish amount of tender loving care following a job well done. Long-term plans are still coming together, as skipper Mark Schrader considers several options ranging from charters to educational voyages to ocean conservation projects.
Will there be a book and a documentary?
That is the plan, and both are in the preliminary stages, though at this writing we’re still seeking funding and/or sponsorship to make both happen. For more information on related opportunities, contact Dawn Curtis Hanley at email@example.com.
What are the plans for the website and other updates?
The expedition website will continue to live with new content coming forth from the education and science teams. You can also follow future Around the Americas happenings, including speaking engagements, via Facebook and Twitter (@AroundAmericas). A good way to track down fresh content on the www.aroundtheamericas.org website is through an RSS feed.
What’s an RSS feed?
We’re glad you asked. Live from my current, adjacent cubicle that Pacific Science Center has graciously loaned me this week is onboard educator Zeta Strickland. Zeta, take it away: “The posting schedule for content on the Around the Americas website is changing now that the expedition portion has come to a close. But we will be periodically posting updates on the project, what people are doing, and information about some of our partners in ocean health issues. We know the periodic posting schedule can be tough to follow, so we’d like to encourage you to sign up for the RSS feed of the Around the Americas website. Just click on the orange and white RSS feed button on the upper right corner of the ATA home page.
“Once you have set it up, you no longer have to keep checking the ATA website to see when we post new content. Instead, new content will automatically be posted on your home web page, to the RSS feed on your mobile phone, or to the RSS reader of your choice (Google has one, as do other groups and sites). While you are at it, include other blogs and websites that you follow, including Pacific Science Center, Sailors for the Sea, or other travel/sailing/marine-themed blogs. Once you start following websites this way, you’ll love it.”
Okay, last question: How’s everybody doing?
Well, as I said in my last crew log, finishing a long trip is often harder than doing it, as the day-to-day schedule of the voyage itself makes the days pass quickly. To be honest, now that the prolonged adrenaline rush is over, getting back into the swing of things has been challenging, but interesting. But we’re all doing just fine.
The other night, up at Mark’s place north of Seattle, the grills were fired up and we enjoyed a lovely evening surrounded by family and friends, the unsung heroes of Around the Americas. In the Wizard of Oz, of course, Dorothy never actually left Kansas; her wanderings were the result of a bump on the noggin. Well, we did leave our comfortable surroundings, and the sights we saw – in the Bering Sea, the Northwest Passage, the Falklands, Cape Horn, Galapagos, the west coast, and so on – are something we’ll never, ever forget. As it turns out, the American continents really are one island, surrounded by one ocean. We need to keep pressing the message: We must take better care.
But for now we need to return to Ballard and Lake Okoboji and Santa Barbara and Newport and all the other places from which the extended Ocean Watch family hails. It was a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it’s good to be back. Mate, it was a long bloody trip. And as it turns out, Dorothy was right: There’s no place like home.
Okay, one final thought. Last night, I hauled the remainder of my stuff off the boat, including the two Little Wing carbon-fiber kayaks that proved so useful and fun over the course of our journey. Speaking of home, that’s what Ocean Watch was to all of us for the better part of thirteen months. I’m not one for long goodbyes, so once everything was stashed in my pick-up, with one last armful of gear and paddles I strolled up the docks of Shilshole, with no intention whatsoever of even looking back.
I almost made it back to the truck. But halfway up the ramp, what the heck, I couldn’t help myself, and spun around for one long, last look.
-Herb McCormick with photographs by David Thoreson
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