002 - May 2nd 18:05 PDT

Problem at the fuel dock. Couldn't get main tank filler cap off, finally ripped it clean out of the deck, filled main tank through end of hose. 1.5 hrs wasted

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San Diego to Charleston

Debriefing Report 002

All systems nominal. The vessel -- okay... the yacht* picked up speed. The docks of Sunroad Resort Marina slid by us, relativistically speaking. Then, skimming past the ultra-trendy Coasterra Mexi-restaurant -- looking like something right out of Second Life -- I gave the helm to Crewman Elena and dove below deck.

Didn't need a, "Wet clean up: emotional spill on aisle three." Heaving chest, burning eyes, sudden accumulation of snot: yup, I was heading for a full-blown, self-indulgent, narcissistic, woe-is-me fest. Maybe later, when no one's looking, but then and there -- with no inspiring soundtrack or slow-motion visuals -- it was pointless, maybe detrimental. Besides, equipment needed checking before stop one: the fuel dock -- two miles ahead. Stick with the mission, Meg!

  • Engine running: check!
  • Air not full of smoke: check!
  • No funny, expensive noises: check!
  • Radar screen showing objects like some bad complexion: check!
  • Satellite modem receiving: check!
  • Satellite phone sending automated position reports: check!
  • Fridge keeping the beer and rations cool: check!
  • Instruments reading:
    • water
      • speed: check!
      • temperature: check!
      • depth: check!
    • ground speed: check!
    • wind speed and direction: check!
    • air temperature: check!
  • Solar panels, wind turbine and engine alternator charging: check!
  • Boat not sinking: check!

If anything can go wrong, it will: two fuel tanks, two gas-caps, and only one of them opened. Forty-three minutes past tee-minus-zero, and we were already improvising less than optimal solutions.

A lot of prep had gone into making sure the boat didn't sink. By the time we released the docking clamps, engaged the thrusters, and rounded "San Diego's premiere bayfront dining destination, restaurant, lounge and floating event center," the escape vessel had crossed the planet from east to west, south to north; all of it, virtually nonstop. Why? It's a long story, but you'll probably read the bestseller, or see the blockbuster, so I shan't cover it here. Following that hyper-voyage, the boat sat for several years in the nastiest, coldest, darkest, wettest, inhospitable, incomprehensible, inappropriate place for pretty, white, production yachts -- Victoria, Canada.

Alas, a pie-in-the-sky movie deal had the embarrassingly gullible captain and crew bashing their way down the west coast to Hollywood. ...Wait, I know what you are going to say, "Hey, that's bogus. You can't park a boat in Hollywood. It's like, totally, for sure, miles from the water, dudettes!" Right (good luck parking a car, for that matter), so we settled for a district of Los Angeles called, Marina Del Rey, which just happens to have a whole bunch of marinas -- big surprise. There, we managed to meet just about everyone who'd been on Star Trek, or walked a crew member's dog, or been an extra, or an alien, or set painter, or car parker. For some reason they were all living on boats. The rest were producers (or claimed they were), and their positions in the studio hierarchy went up with their blood alcohol level. L.A. came to nothing -- huge surprise -- and we ran, clinging to the last shreds of our dignity, for the Mexican border and adventure.

We made it to Ensenada. It's a dusty, wide spot on the Baja highway, merely a quesadilla's toss south of the US border. And, as luck would have it, we were just in time to get our boat seized by the Mexican army. Chubby teenagers with machine guns descended on the resort and seized every boat in the marina. Well... not every boat, the less valuable vessels remained unseized. Despite the acrimonious, serves-you-right-you-rich-pigs cackles from the occupants of unseizeworthy boats, none of the seized boats had done anything wrong -- mondo surprise! Our boat ended up stuck in Mexico for what we call, The Year of Hell. Star Trek - Voyager fans will appreciate that clever reference. Sadly, our year of hell didn't end with the captain blowing up the ship. Instead, three Americans with an impressively overpowered motor yacht, helped us effect a middle-of-the-night boat-rescue to USA. When Mexican authorities realized we'd flown the coup and tied up in San Diego, they issued a statement informing us that they'd let us get away because we weren't guilty. Guilty of what is still a mystery to this day.

State-side, the boat sat for almost a year. It pretty much morphed into a floating reef. We sure weren't into sailing, and I recall really not liking Das Boot a lot at the time. Then again, we decided to give the mission another go. Well... decided is a bit of a stretch. The reality is, we had no choice, Das Boot's allowable stay in America was running out.

We scraped the ecosystem off the hull, chanted happy, delusional mantras, aimed the pointy end of the boat south, and hit the open ocean! Avoiding Ensenada like the plague, we sailed in the safety of international waters, way, way off the Baja peninsula. At Cabo San Lucas (or the remains of it: 4 months after hurricane Odile, the place was still a pile of reeking wreckage) we began cruising; deliriously killing time, living life in search of those special Facebook moments.

Cruising -- eroding life, crawling south proved to us that we really do not like 'cruising' a lot! By the time we ended up anchored in Chamela Bay (about 100 miles south of sunny Puerto Vallarta) -- screaming at each other about one more mile south leading to mutiny in the least, and most likely, homicide -- it was all over. Done! Finita la commedia! Curtain!

Weeping tears of joy, we held each other; confessing a mutual preference for dying at sea, than squandering another day, going nowhere: Canada's refusal grant Elena citizenship, meant we actually couldn't go anywhere but Canada, USA, or Mexico. By the time the sun was setting over over a burning-down taco-shack-beach-bar (no kidding), we'd brought up the offshore charts and plotted our course -- way, way offshore and straight back to Cabo San Lucas.

Being offshore was way less horrible than crammed into an anchorage with boats and denizens which, quite frankly, scared the crap out of us. Not only were we pretty sure our compatriots didn't have insurance, but their spasmodic movements and toothless leers -- don't forget, we're a couple of women on an insurable vessel -- gave us the creeps. There was that and an insidiously, seductive sociological line we were terrified of crossing. So easy just to let go... give up... and wait to die.

Not cruising -- AKA anticruising -- covers a lot of miles in a short time. In fact, too short a time. Das Boot hadn't been out of USA long enough to be allowed back in or through. With nowhere to go, we dialed in an autopilot course correction of 4.78 degrees to starboard, missed the astonishingly demolished (and yet, sublimely crass) Cabo San Lucas, and sailed north into the Gulf of California (or the Sea of Cortez; depending on who you ask, which we didn't because we were so far from humanity, and really... who cares?).

Finally, we'd killed enough time to take the boat back into USA, and something rotating, tropical and called Blanca was heading right for us. We emerged from hiding in the Sea of Cortez, cleared out of Mexico in Cabo San Lucas, and Blanca nailed us. It was a wild ride. We survived. So did the boat -- barely. Vessel and crew took a sound thrashing.

Running off to Hollywood, cruising away the clock, ignoring the iron fist in the velvet glove of Canadian optics... You get the picture, and it's not pretty. All of this shit, including hurricanes, Mexican cartel feuds, crooked Mexi-officials, tropical fevers, all of it, piled higher and higher... until, finally ... it had, well and truly, destroyed us emotionally and physically.

So, there we were, all alone, depressed, bruised, sick, stateless, and floating at a San Diego customs dock in a bloody-well trashed sailboat. It wasn't one of our proudest moments.

Reality is: life is going to end... eventually; might as well make the most of it, right? Right! Gotta make it count. Live like there's no tomorrow. That's actually pretty easy for us: tomorrows really aren't that much of a sure thing. Our lives are usually dependent on a centimeter thick layer of fiberglass, not getting sick or hurt, not going crazy, not getting our throats slit. Then again, Earth could be hit by a giant meteor. But barring an extinction-level-event, you'll get old, cling to medicine and loved ones to ease your desperate, painful struggle for one last breath, and we'll probably end up breathing seawater long before then. And so what? Game over is over. Done! Finita la commedia! Curtain!

Life is how you live it; right here and right now! And we're still living.. We're still fighting for our love, our dreams, our rights, our freedom. We're still together after all of these years! We refuse to let the bastards rip us apart, or tear us down. We're going to survive this -- even if it kills us.

And... There you have it... TA DA! The reason for this heroic, endless mission -- The Anticruise.

We'd pissed away another year, waiting for a demonstrably anti-LGBT government -- our lawyer had appealed to -- to fix their mistakes and grant my partner Canadian citizenship -- still nothing. Our vessel of freedom, our dreams, the boat, rotted where we left it, neglected in a San Diego marina: nowhere to sail to. But it's allowable time -- one year -- in USA was almost up... again. It came down to; sail the boat, or lose it; lie down and die, or take back our lives. The choice was clear.

The second we got back to the boat, the mission clock started in countdown mode. Debt was incurred, sails were sewed, rigging got rigged, pulleys were pulled, engines rebuilt, treadmills tread, wiring was wired. Das Boot was lifted from the water to have her gigantic bottom pampered. Then knuckles were skinned, swears were screamed, blood was shed, tears were cried, fights were fought, to-do lists were hacked at. We must have done everything! Or so we thought: two fuel tanks, two filler caps, and only one opened. Fine! we missed that. Could happen to anyone; an electrochemical process wherein dissimilar metals exchange electrons. It welded the port side fuel cap in place for evermore.

So, an hour and a half into the mission and the gas jockey, a proud live-aboard with only a fleeting -- if that -- acquaintance with his toothbrush, had just helped rip the entire fuel filler assembly from the hull. I shook off the guilt those addict eyes shot me for not tipping handsomely, paid for the diesel and finally, well and truly, we were on our way.

  • * 14 meter (46 feet), Beneteau Oceanis, built in France, sloop rig
  • ** "one heck of a great adventure" Steve Irwin, Died: September 4, 2006, Batt Reef, Australia - one of Meg's heroes