Catalina Island is under 40 miles from Long Beach, but is still far enough to be out of sight from the mainland. Up to that point, I had raced on sailboats as crew and taken sailboats out for daysails, but this was my first experience captaining an overnight sailing trip in which I would be responsible for the safety of seven people less experienced than myself. In fact, before departure, I realized that I had never before actually anchored overnight. So, I quickly looked up a youtube video on proper anchoring techniques, just in case… Needless to say, I was very nervous about the responsibility I was taking on.
Nonetheless we motored out of the harbor entrance, hoisted the sails, turned off the engine, and steered toward an empty horizon, beyond which we hoped we would find Catalina Island. I am unable to fully describe the immense, overwhelming sense of freedom that I experienced in that moment. It was more intense and good than anything I’d felt before. It was the feeling of being alive, the feeling that you will live forever in that moment, the kind of feeling that makes life worth living, one that comes when we step beyond our fears and set our course toward the unknown.
The sailboat did not end up on the rocks, and besides being a few bottles of rum lighter, we brought her back to the marina two days later in exactly the same condition that we had found her, though I couldn’t say the same about ourselves. Something had changed in us. The realization that we could accomplish things beyond our wildest dreams had come upon us while we sat at anchor under Catalina’s tall grey cliffs and watched the sun set behind the blue horizon.
That irresponsible voyage has shaped my life and led me to travel the globe by foot, motorcycle, and even aboard super yachts in the five years that have followed. In a way, when we motored out of that channel in southern California for the open ocean that day, I never really came back. That voyage has continued to present, and has ultimately brought me to my current dream of sailing around the world.
So if I have learned anything from my experience it is this; if you have a dream, MAKE IT HAPPEN! You never know where it could lead you.