Black Skies Invite

A storm finally broke up the calm summer winter we've had the past 2 months. Even my plants think it's spring and are bursting out blooms. I was starting to get depressed with the nice weather. Finally a burst of chill, and it was time to ride!

The conditions were right, time to head offshore. Emails, phone calls and many texts later I get one confirmation to ride during the passage of a black sky. A few quip sentences, one confirmation call and it's a go. One comes up south on the 5 and one goes up north, our destination is mid point at the Dana Point boat launch.

The sky ahead is thickening with masses of dark highlights, the skyline descends as if it is falling to mate with the ocean, a perfect mirror mask. A crack between two folds of clouds and a brilliant thick colored band of one end of a rainbow draws down towards Earth. A good omen if I want it to be.

I pull into the parking lot. It is empty. The asphalt has a thick sheen of puddles hugging the pocks. I put on my hat and jacket and jump out into the splayed moisture dropping in a steady cadence. I start rigging my safety gear. I pull out my wetsuit from a compartment and it's rancid. I'm going to have to wear it, see what condition my skin decides to crawl after a few hours of humid friction. I line the interior with some hair conditioner just so I myself can bear the stink. Soon it will draw into my skin like osmosis and I'll have to scrub diligently later to clean up.

RXTUSMC pulls in drawing his Sea Doo. It's a fine boat, clean, unblemished and well cared for. We dig into the formalities and he's fast on the draw to get to the water while I'm still poking away at gear. My usual beat. We look around at the harbor, it's all ours. Nobody out. What better time to ride? The steady light rain continues to stir the puddles into musical rhythms.

Inspection on his boat, some riding technique discussions, some old shop talk stories swapped. A few vehicles slowly drive by, no trailers being drawn, we're the only ponies in the meadow. He's a big boy, exactly the kind of image your mind would construct of how a Marine should look and act, but they are actually always much nicer and more solid than the attitude of imagination. I haven't met one yet that isn't, and the old school Marines have something that is missing from the newer generations, they've got 'bite'.

RXTMARINE is retired, but not really, he's just in a position now at Camp Pendleton where he can run game face, run the deck, run the training skills, but have the luxury of exemption by civilian standards. There is a lot to be said about experience, millions of dollars are invested into the men of the speciality vent, and that is experience that can't be bought at any price after so many years. It shows.

We're going to do a triangulation type of training, its not very systematic but it's a way of training that pulls hard on the body and takes you down fast. It doesn't matter how much muscle mass, how big or strong you are, this kind of training draws. It's not easy and it's storming. The best time to train, practicing these skills leads to excellence if one has the mindset. I haven't met a Marine yet that doesn't.

We break out of the floating garbage on idle. We shouldn't have to drive through this at all. Bart said to me once, 'people will walk by a piece of garbage, imagine if they took care of one piece each per day'. His words resonate as I drive through the detritus of discards. He is right, so pick something up will ya? My last LB2CAT training sesh I collected 8 balloons between here and Catalina, with their trailing strings. Those things are fun but what a nuisance for marine life. Whatever garbage I see within reason of containment, I bring back.

The outflow of the river is a distinct brown curl expanding outward like a nasty plume. The delineation line is blue green to brown with a kelp and garbage line that appears to be a necklace of disaster. We look over at one another and cross into clear blue waters. Ahead lies a dark plunging squall.

I talk about how we're going to ride, what to expect, why and off we go on a steady clip. I look over and his posture needs a little improvement..He'll find it by the second stage today, let him have his reigns and find the comfort zone of throttle. I tell him we're heading out to the squall. Which we do right away, chasing weather. The rain changes out and the sting on my face between my motorcycle vents is irritating. I don't like rain on my face at fast speeds, it feels like I'm getting pelted with chicken feed thrown spit from a shotgun just out of harm's range. Goggles are a must as well as all our other PPE, my kit is still being trialed for the Mark Hahn, so I'm checking it.

The swells are rolling sideshore north and they're fast and the peaks or not steep, but they are deceiving, and not always clean. It's either a safe slow speed or a fast run with potential hits. Today is not a day to get hurt, and he's stuck with a thumb throttle that is going to weaken his starboard side in a standing position. Have to watch his impact load in these conditions.

We have plenty of stops to change off the run pattern. I like the mood far offshore, we stop and chat, breathe, relax and then we see a huge sunfish. Motor over to the amazingly slow and fascinating creature, shut the boats off and watch it meander. It actually looks like it is living trapped in a life of pain, a body that just doesn't move fast enough, or true enough, a vastly awkward existence. It is an amazing creature in it's own right of size, this one is several hundred pounds, he's huge and he's slimy. His mouth gapes and he just doesn't look right, but he's fine.

We head on out to sea and fast running pod of spinnaker dolphins are running at the speed of any fast open boat. Their sleek lines look all business and they take turns diving ahead of the next and stop by RXTUSMC and slow down to check him out. I am sure it is mutual.

Off we are again to the Southern compass and we switch out some of the training building blocks. I won't bore you with the training details, because it's only good if you are the one at the helm. We head back in, cross over the murky pollution line, and idle back to the dock. Boats are on the trailer and it's time for a lunch to fill the empty hole burning in my gut.

The stories are swapped and I know I talked too much, and honestly his stories destroy mine. I love to hear about people's experiences who have gone beyond the measure of mediocrity or been forced to produce on deeper levels of our human condition. A perfect morning. I ride again on Sunday with the Boss from the PWCoffshore.com race team, same location, maybe a different personality from the ocean.

RXTUSMC and I are heading back to train next Tuesday. We'll collect further south on base, launching out of Camp Pendleton and we'll do some surf operations combined with offshore. Next round we'll have another Recon sidekick joining us. The energy will shift significantly due to the personality mix. What a blend of humanity. I hope we get another kick back storm.

Carry On.

Semper Foking Spero