Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bringing Blue Chablis Home

Intheditch, originally uploaded by floyd_noise.

Blue Chablis II is our new boat, it is a 1992 Norsea 27. It is the boat that we have been dreaming of and the boat that will take us wherever we may want to go. We woke up one Saturday morning and Eiko said to me, "Why don't we start looking for our Norsea now, that way we can be sailing it and learning until we are ready to take off in five years." I said, "You know Eiko, whenever we find our boat, today or tomorrow it is out there right now. It is sitting somewhere in a slip or voyaging out at sea, it just doesn't know yet that it belongs to us." We went on to breakfast at our little favorite place. Sitting in the warm southern California morning sun Eiko was scanning boat ads in "The Log". "How bout that one? Norsea 27 1992, yada yada". I wonder where it is located and I wander over to the phone book. Looking up the area code it tells me that it is somewhere in Colorado.

Barbara and Steve live on Top of the World, at 10000 ft it is a place of beauty and challenge. "People are not supposed to live up here", says Steve. It takes extraordinary people to survive up in this kind of place and Steve and Barbara go beyond that. Sitting in the yard of a place that they have built with their own hands is Blue Chablis II, named after two of their sled dogs. This boat has taken them down off the mountain every season and has opened up the Sea of Cortez and the wild islands off of the tip of Baja California for the last 7 years. They will continue on in a new Blue Chablis, a Valiant 40, to travel Central America, the Canal and beyond. Eiko and I feel very fortunate that Blue Chablis II will be ours to take us to our dreams and beyond. A boat is not an inanimate object, it is a living breathing thing that protects us and carries us in safety and in comfort. It is our womb in the sea. Like ourselves it learns the world from its parents and like ourselves we are who we are largely because of our parents.

The big day arrived and early one Friday morning before the sun we were sneaking out of LA before the masses make their autonomic march toward the time clocks. Riding in the cab of my brother-in-law's Dodge Ram 2500 Cummings Turbo Diesel truck, listening to the throaty roar of the engine, slipping past the gears into drive, I am one of the big boys now. The general consensus at Eiko's workplace was the impossibility of making Grand Junction Colorado the first day. Pulling into Grand Junction at 7pm we located a room, had dinner and then looked at the weather forecast. DooM and GlooM, 6 to 11 inches of snow due to fall on the Denver area within the next 24hrs. Not unusual I guess for mid Oct but Eiko had promised my testicles to her boss if she wasn't back at work on Tues morning.

Un-thwarted, we continue on up to Leadville and arrive at Steve and Barb's about 10am, the sky an unblemished blue, the sun shining golden on Rocky peaks. Nevertheless haste is needed and we pack up and hook up. After the paper work and after Barbara releases Blue Chablis into our care, we are set to go just as the first freezing flakes of frozen hell begin to descend from the sky. An old familiar sense of anxiety returns to me, thinking of the road ahead and my ability to cruise 8000 lbs of boat over 1000 miles of pavement sea, from the Top of the World to the gentle swell of the Pacific, and adding 2 mountain passes full of snow between me and the sweet downgrade racing the Colorado to the sea.

I shift into granny gear, it moves! I turn onto the hiway, it is wet but unfrozen and I believe as I move on up the grade that this truck actually has the power to pull this beast over the Climax pass. In fact, as I reach the summit and over it looks like we will be able to beat the coming storm and actually get down and over Vale pass before the worst of it hits. It is snowing a little heavier now and we pass over a splotch of white, no problem. Heading down now I keep her slow heedless of the many that are flashing by me like it is a sweet summer's day. Off to the right a small yellow sign informs me that ahead is a 7% downgrade.

Dead Man's Curve
Like the shock of waking up from a nightmare I round the turn and all I can see in front of me is pure unblemished white heading down lost in in the fog of the now heavier falling snow. I ease on the brakes and I slow a bit, but then the front tires begin to plow. "This is not going to work", I say to Eiko. I know that I only have seconds now before I pick up more speed. Speed is bad. I can jackknife, spilling the boat off the edge of the road or into an oncoming vehicle. The pit in my stomach becomes a black hole pulling my insides into a singularity, the Pucker Factor begins to climb. This in not my idea of the first 20mins of ownership of Blue Chablis, how can I face Steve and Barbara and tell them that I killed their baby? I tell Eiko, "Hang on, I am going to try to land us in the ditch, we may roll." My last test of the brakes sent our inertia into the other lane, I steer slightly back and feel the weight of the load shift back. At that point I apply the brakes again and get the truck and boat sliding at a 45 degree angle towards the side of the road. I feel like I am now piloting an aircraft, I steer to keep everything straight. I could not have picked a better spot, there is a wide shoulder leading to a very shallow ditch and a gently sloping mountainside clear of boulders, trees and assorted other problems. A three point landing! We stop! Blue Chablis is still there! The falling snow gets heavier.
Hmmm.... Now what? Listening to the idling diesel which sounds oblivious to our predicament, is this only the beginning of our problems? I struggle to put everything into perspective. We are safe, the boat is safe, Bernie's truck (thank god) is safe, we are stuck on the road in an oncoming storm at the Top of the World. The next big truck down this road may find this a perfect spot to slide into us. Options... not too many. We can't spend the night here, it is very very cold and we barely have enough energy at this altitude to tie our shoelaces without breathing hard. We are about 12 miles from Steve and Barbara's and that is where we need to get back to. I get out and flag the first car coming up the mountain. They stop and we get in. I get to practice my spanish and I am able to convey our desire to head over to Leadville, where they must have been headed anyway. Hopping out of the car at Steve and Barbara's I can only imagine their first thoughts at seeing us, back so soon and without Blue Chablis.

Not to worry, it is just another normal day up at these altitudes. Steve is immediately on the phone informing the Hiway patrol of our location and situation. He arranges a friend to come tomorrow morning with a tow truck to pull us out. We jump in his truck to survey the lay of the land at our crash site. Could not be better. The rest of the evening I take advantage of their knowledge of all the wonderful secret places that they have found while cruising the Sea of Cortez. Eiko and I sleep like babies.

The next morning the sky is blue, the road is melting and it has been scraped and sanded throughout the night. Mickey and the tow truck meet us and soon we are sitting on pavement and saying our good-byes. I believe now that Blue Chablis just didn't want to go without a final farewell to our new friends Steve and Barbara.

Vale Pass which had turned into a nightmare last night was wet but clear and by the time we make it down the other side I am feeling more confident in the trailer and the truck. Old skills and lessons from my father, who I have traveled with many thousands of miles towing various and sometimes exotic vehicles criss-crossing the United States, begin to flow back into my reflexes. We spend the first night in Beaver Utah, a respectable distance.

Heh, our only problem now is getting to LA too early! Just past Las Vegas we stop for fuel and get a free buffet at the "Golden Somethinoranother". Might as well, we got plenty of time. Fed and watered we drop $40 in slots and video poker, I have never gambled before. Eiko wins back $16 from the Roulette Wheel and I feel like I have been cured of that nonsense. We move on, the plan is to spend some hours close to San Bernadino and head on in sometime in the wee hours of the morning to avoid the preverbal freeway tango. In Victorville we find a nice place to stop and camp out in the Aft cabin, our first night aboard. This is great!

In the Midnight Hour we fuel up and head em on out. 10 West is down to one lane for about a mile, thank god we are not here in the daylight. Seems like a blink of an eye we are headed through city streets and arrive outside the boat yard at 2 am. Eiko hails a taxi and heads on home to wake up in 3 hours to go to work. My testicles are safe. At 7:30 the yard opens and I back Blue Chablis into the yard. This adventure is over, we have done it, the next adventure has started.

No comments: