Thread: Wide Open Water
09-22-2008, 01:56 AM #1
Wide Open Water
WIDE OPEN WATER
Sunday September 21, 2008
My phone rings. Mark Gerner called to remind me 'bring a ten dollar bill, the ATM machine is broken'. My rig is ready, everything packed, went to Home Depot with my girls and bought grass seed and topsoil to finish setting off the back yard, and a bird bad earlier that morning. To shake off some time we stopped in at Barnes and Noble. I wanted to pick up a War book to read on recent events in Iraq. Shaniah picked out a book on Fairies, and we all got a hot drink and cake. I was anticipating the interview today, and hoping my PWCoffshore.com teammate would want to do a fast little Klip afterwards?
I arrive at the Queensway boat ramp in Long Beach. Mark and the film crew are finishing up. It's my turn to spin the reel a little. Mark runs off a bevy of quick questions and bingo, we are done. I ask Mark, 'you feel like going out for a 10 mile jaunt". He enthusiastically responds 'yeah I do'. My elation hits my face immediately. I get to launch and ride! Before I left, my daughter Kyla said 'Mom you should go for a ride'. With her vote of confidence I feel steeled for a good time on the water.
We get our gear ready independently, both on the launch, years of launches and anticipated rides, we move like a machine. Mark is a man with a mindset to match any Devil Dog on lead. I admire him for that quick warrior instinct and integrity that is bred, not assumed. I can look over at him, nod and we're 'good to go'. Simple as that.
It doesn't hurt to have a big brother watching your backside, all strings attached. His bride Christina is in spirit with us as we ping the start button. Mark says, 'I have about 25 miles of gas in the ski, you want to go to Catalina?'
I stare at him. Catalina! Hell yeah I want to go to Catalina, I respond 'sure let's go'. My interior is getting jumpy, I got an invite to ride Shawn style with our own little Recon on the Pacific. He asks me 'do you have GPS?'
"No, 2 radios and a cell phone".
He nods. Affirmed, we'll go.
Marks says, "I'll refuel in Catalina'. I start breathing to relax and steady myself for the run ahead. I love this. I am so happy at this moment, I didn't think Catalina would be part of this day. Riding with a person you trust makes these serendipitous opportunities grander. The world seems a very big place and I get to run with one of the big boys.
Mark holds his Kawasaki Ultra 250 to a 5mph pace till we hit the perimeter buoys. On our right is the Queen Mary, silent and cold, grieving in her berth. Ahead of us looms a dull gray horizon and the Pacific Blue, wide open outside Angels Gate. To the South is Long Beach with tall cold buildings. The water is slightly textured inside the harbor, boaters meander in all directions, crossing wakes.
He looks over at me and his helmet does the familiar 'dip', the ok sign is hailed and returned and off we go. His Ultra is sweet, it moves into the criss crossed water and loves it. My F-15 Kawasaki lands hard and loves it, because I'm in step with her dance.
My swim fins are clipped on my belt, OTB boots laced and dug into the Hydro Turf mats. My Force 6 lifejacket is ready to assume any chest impact with the helm station and my Aquapac holds my cell phone on my left bicep. I'm wearing a one Mil wetsuit with no top. The LB2CAT race I got overheated and sick, this time I want to run WOT (wide open throttle) and not think twice about body function.
We move in unison, Mark hits ahead then slows down so my pace and horsepower can correct at the speed allowed. I am watching my LCD display, 48-58 MPH, so the average must be about 51. My reading isn't accurate but I know my throttle is clamped, this is all she has to give me.
The ocean changes pitch on occasion but remains relatively calm, not glassy, not perfect, but an exceptional day of speed running across a 27 mile opening between shorelines. There are some hard peaks on occasion and harder landings. I keep my body centered to the helm and trim held/chest/pelvis, making sure my shoulders and hand grip do not hesitate or load too hard. Essentially I let this little F-15 Pony take the lead, handing her the reigns. She loves to pick up and go and I don't want to hold her back.
I feel like I'm riding in slow motion as Mark's red hot Ultra charges ahead, it encourages me to see the speed. We're heading dead straight to Avalon, the beautiful port, as we get closer the island outline appears.
The Mega Pod of dolphins looms on our south side, I slow down and alter course to say hello to the muse of all sailors around the world. Setting in at a 9 mph slow speed, the change their direction and come investigate, 10 run ahead of my bow and 30 or 50 on both sides and behind. I hold one hand up and maintain throttle on the right, celebrating a glorious interlude.
One dolphin direct ahead of my bow quickly speeds up and jumps with the greatest expression of joy I have ever witnessed and hits a 10 foot arc out of the water with his small framed body, then catches up to pace alongside my port side hull. Thank you very much, my life is truly wonderful, and the Mega Pod made it even better. We beg off and the escort drifts back to the pod, onward to Catalina.
Lots of boats are heading to and from the island. It's a big wide open channel. My helmet is screaming, I should have closed the ear ports and I didn't, when I arrive in Catalina my ears are ringing and I'm either deaf or on a natural high. But I can hear the warning signal from Mark's Kawasaki that his gas is gone.
We pull into the mooring area and head alongside the break wall of the Casino. Mark pumps 3 gallons of fuel into my 16.4 gallon tank and fills up his steed at the gas dock. I pull out my cell phone and call David Pu'u. I had a near death experience within the past week and my friend is now keeping a close eye on me.
On Friday I had to call him when I had a planned date for an offshore ride with Brad out of Camp Pendleton. I was having dinner with Brad and excused myself to make the call to 'check in'. I asked David if I could be excused from calling back as 'dad' was embarrassing me. Pu'us tone was direct, 'thanks Shawn, glad you are ok". That was Friday, this is Sunday. I'm making that call again.
"You're where? Catalina Island" he says. After a few quick expressions of my immediate happiness, Pu'u seems satisfied at this point that I am being reasonable and I'm to call when I am back on the mainland. I later send him a pic from the day and he says 'I can be worse than....sometimes', and I'll leave it at that. Pu'u is the kind of person you want on your team. He's a Devil Dog without the weapons. His girlfriend Donna chimes in on the exalts of happiness and we're all connected, like it or not. The big blue is our playground. This is our universal enthusiasm.
Mark and I are back on the return track outside of the Casino. He says he wants me to try his race boat, he has some big ideas about kicking ass, and wants to give me a taste of what it's like to run with the pack. We get out again mid channel, switch jet skis and I'm off, I'm way off and running hard. The Ultra loves the conditions. She likes to lay her hull heavy into the slice and smooth coat her way on the coarse density of agitated surface water. I'm adjusting to the faster pace and finding the boat to be relatively smooth, with just a touch of chine talk, have to watch that a bit.
I pull back to Mark on my F-15 and he wants me to keep going, I do too, but my karma bank says trade back and respect his race boat. I have a belief about riding race boats, if it's not mine, stay off. I don't know its personality enough to know how the pump wants to load and how the RPM's hit, so I decline. Reluctantly I decline. It's like making great love with no orgasm.
Once again the Mega Pod intersects our path. I pull out my cell phone and shoot some quick snaps of the amazing display of aquatic expression these dolphins characterize. I'm smiling and giggling and taking my time, lost in the beauty and magic that is transpiring. I feel special, all this for me.
Mark and I exchange 'nods'. We say goodbye to the dolphins and the mainland horizon looms. This run is fast, we're back in what seems a few minutes as we pass the Catalina Express, trot through her wakes at WOT and then a large cruise ship, numerous boats and the cross hatch of wakes combining energy.
The Angels Gate is ours. The Queen Mary is right where she was and the languished buildings of Long Beach look on in somber disinterest. We stop our trot right at the 5MPH buoy perimeter. I look over at Gerner, his smile is precisely like my own. He motors over and our fists connect, finished.
We talk politics, family, my recent conquests or lack of, and both scoot into the dock and hot load our boats onto the trailers. The last thing we say is 'goodbye'. There is nothing else to add.
Except, I want to do it all over again.
Being a part of the PWCoffshore.com Racing Team is pretty much like this little adventure, it is just one boat launch away.
09-22-2008, 02:05 AM #2
Absolutely great story. I read it twice. I miss those fun runs...
09-23-2008, 01:13 AM #3
There is no embellishment here gang, I saw that dolphin jump out of the water at least, at least 10 feet out of the water right beside her ski. I've ridden that channel countless times and have seen multiple dolphin pods, but I've never seen a dolphin greet a guest like that. Very friggen cool - where was my camera when I needed it!!!!! What an honor to ride with Shawn, the real deal.
Now, "Get wet or go home!"
09-24-2008, 10:22 AM #4
great narrative Shawn! Them Dolphins sure do make it fun when riding in the ocean. They seem to LOVE the ski when its going 15-20 MPH...Glad you guys had fun, and got back safe. See ya soon.
09-24-2008, 10:36 AM #5
- Join Date
- Jul 2005
- Southern California
Great Write Up !
I enjoy reading write ups like this. Almost like I was there. Keep up the good work ! ! !
09-24-2008, 10:46 AM #6
Excellent write up. Thanks for sharing it.
09-25-2008, 11:27 PM #7
Sunday, Catalina, me the team, those who can, those who will. More stories to follow.
96degrees in Tustin today, hot HOT HOT!
I wonder how the ocean is going to hold?
We'll find out, Catalina here we come!
09-26-2008, 05:23 PM #8
LB2CAT 'Inside Powersports' Video
Catch our team mate Mark Gerner of PWCoffshore.com on the Water Craft world website! The LB2CAT offshore race is profiled in their video log. Steve Friebe is also interviewed and many of our PWCoffshore.com Team riders are profiled in their video presentation.
Jason Johnson who is the Water Craft World Editor competed in the LB2CAT event. He is also a K38 certified alumni! Taking a K38 Water Safety course in Morro Bay this past winter.
If you go to WW homesite, the video should play automatically, or look up the LB2CAT!
Water Craft World Magazine Contact Information:
10-02-2008, 06:37 AM #9
Great write up!
I love reading articles like these
10-05-2008, 12:33 AM #10
As always, you inspire me! While not nearly as good a writer (or rider!!), I'd at least share my day:
The Last Ride
My back is aching, time to get up. After 55 years, I can no longer doze late into Saturday mornings, the sins of my youth manifesting themselves into a myriad of little pains that I struggle to ignore. It’s October in Alaska and the “termination dust” is on the mountains; the last of yellow leaves spiraling slowly to earth from the alders and birches. I sit on the edge of the bed and peek through the blinds; the fog ghosts through the trees and a tiny owl hoots only twice before retiring from the hunt.
I move like an old man, slowly working the kinks out of my knees and back. In front of the mirror, my silver hair reflects the harsh light as I squint to read the pill bottles. I finish my business and pull on a pair of shorts and tee shirt, a stubborn denial of the frosty morning.
My boats are in the garage, tucked in a corner on dollies, so I’ll need to move the ’51 and hook up the trailer to load them….plenty of time for that, high tide isn’t until this afternoon anyway. We’re planning on running the bar.
I grab a glass of milk and breakfast bar, pull up the shades and watch two duck hunters move out of a fog bank and hear the muted booms of their shotguns. A hunter myself, I still cheer for the ducks, “Run Donald, Run!” I laugh….
Later in the afternoon…..
I loaded both the boats, not a big job; just back up the trailer, hook up the strap and winch them on the trailer. They’re both tied down and now it’s just a matter of loading up the gear, getting suited up and heading for the launch ramp. Two layers of polypro, zip up the dry suit and we’re off to the boat ramp.
We drop the boats in the water, park the truck and fire up the Kawasakis. The four-cylinders burble happily (love that fuel injection!) and we slip on the balaclavas and gloves. Once the temp is up, we crank up to 25 mph or so and the wind is cool enough to give me a headache. I drop the visor on my Gath helmet and that helps a little, but it’s obviously not summer any more!
We cut around the bar markers in a geriatric fashion, kind of an old-people’s slalom course. The water is glassy smooth, there’s snow on the mountains and life is good! Around the end of Juneau International Airport and there’s a breeze springing up out of the north. No problem, the channel turns south and the wind is on our tail. The Ultra’s deep hull slices smoothly through the chop and we zip past the hatchery and newspaper office dodging the occasional stick or seaweed on the water.
We slow down as we go past the two harbor entrances before crossing under the Juneau-Douglas bridge. The current is ripping as it funnels around the bridge supports and the swirling gathers up the debris. We zig-zag through the flotsam and pick up more speed as we head south towards yet another harbor…this one happens to be Douglas Harbor and our 37’ Bayliner is berthed there. Great place to take a short break and grab some batteries off the boat for our GPS’s. We wipe the salt spray off our glasses and head back north.
Now the wind is on our nose and the spray splashes us in the face when the occasional wave breaks over the bow. We speed up to raise the bow and run into the wind. My headache is back; I ignore it as the little Kawasaki hums along at 6500 RPM. Back through the bar buoys, I cut even harder around the next green can. The nose just starts to hook and I can feel the stern sliding ever so slightly. I lean a little more and the boat tracks through the turn, my eyes tearing from the cold wind. I breathe through my mouth and taste the salt air. We bounce through the wind-driven chop and an Alaska Airlines 737 roars overhead as it overtakes us on short final for the airport.
We turn west around the island and the wind is gone, the water suddenly perfectly smooth. I glance into the mirror and can see my wake with a foggy vapor hanging over it as my bride shoots through the foam, the bow of her boat rising up over the wave, then softly splashing down, driving white spray off each side. I slow down slightly and she pulls up alongside with a grin that says everything; life is good.
The afternoon is over way too soon and we pull up to the ramp and load the boats. Just a few minutes to the house and flush out the salt water, I put the boats back on the dollies in the garage.
Maybe the last ride will be tomorrow.
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