The Early Years & Why?
People often ask me…. “Chris… how and why did you get so involved with the Ocean. Well… it’s a long story that I will touch on over the next few blogs. Ya see… one thing I am certain about it’s not about “What you do” … it is the “Why you do something”!! Well.. here is the beginning….
As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the ocean which is odd since my early years I was at least a 45 minute drive to the closest water. But I guess I got lucky to have a father who thought it was a great idea to become part owner of a boat over in Santa Cruz, California with a buddy of his (Joe Townsend) who just happened to own a boat shop in the Bay Area. Little did I know… my Dad had it all figured out!
You see at the age of 6 or so he’d haul my sister and I out of bed and drive us over the the “Upper Harbor” in Santa Cruz where the a 35 foot recreational fishing boat was all kitted out and ready to go (Thanks Joe!). While I dreaded the early rise, I’d normally sleep the entire 45 minute drive “over the hill” and wake up about 20 miles offshore in the middle of the Monterey Bay in a state of “Wow”….
…..No land in sight, Joe driving the boat, my Dad sitting on a bench teaching sister how to bait hooks while my best friend (Joe’s son Matt) and I would climb up the fly bridge and let our imaginations wander. Eventually the hooks would reel off the davits, bells would be attached to let his know if we got a “hit” and we’d wait (aka fish).
You ask how my Dad had it all figured out?! Well… my Dad would also take the time out to teach me about navigation. How to plot a course, how to use the scale at the bottom of a map to figure out how far out to go and what that criss-crossed “LORAN” pattern on the chart helped us figure out our exact position. Over time he let me sit at the helm and taught me to watch the swell, hold a bearing but also to watch the swell and when to make corrections. On the way out to the fishing grounds, my Dad would give me his instructions on how he wanted me to drive the boat, tell my sister to bait the hooks while he would quietly slip down to the bunks and doze off. So.. in short, my sister and I did all the work (and loved it by the way) while he’d sleep. On the way back to Santa Cruz, again.. I’d take the helm, my sister would clean the fish and my Dad would doze off in the bunks. In short.. he trained his own crew to allow him to be better focused on the fishing. Sometimes he actually caught something
So one day right around age 8 or 9, I took my usual post at the helm, my Dad gave his usual instructions on dead reckoning and dozed off down below. Something clicked that day though! Over for what felt like hours, my fascination and connection with the swell and wind grew stronger and stronger. I noticed how there was a dominant direction and consistent interval between the peaks of the waves. The wind and swell seemed to push the boat in one direction but if I adjusted my bearing by a few degrees over 10 minutes or so (like Dad said) the boat seemed to maintain course. After a while, land appeared at almost the same time as my Dad rose from his slumber and, to both our amazements… Santa Cruz Harbor was within sight. Ya see… I just accurately dead-reckoned ourselves back with no assistance aside from my own intuition and powers of observation. I was hooked (pun intended) and suddenly knew I had a purpose! So why… because this is who I am and always have been.
Btw… Dead Reckoning is really, really hard. Thanks Dad!