It is July 27 and I’ve been at sea for 26 days. In the early dawn there is a remnant of a dream about Little Bear. I’m home and he does not recognize me! I call to him and he walks away. I hope this does not come true.
This is the last day. I can uncross my fingers. The wind is dying and the fog is descending. The long gray day eventually changes from gloom to dusk as cargo ships pass me on their way to the Golden Gate. If I strain my eyes I can just make out their dark forms. Like ghosts they hide in the fog and howl in low mournful tones with their fog horns.
When the night reaches the apex of blackness there is a faint red glow from the Golden Gate Bridge. It is winking at me through the fog bank. I recall that afternoon three years ago when I sailed under the bridge in the opposite direction and nearly hit an inbound freighter! Everything is different now. Pamela has proven herself and her skipper has managed to hold on.
The wind has been light all afternoon but now it comes alive. Everything is straining to squeeze through the narrow opening of the Golden Gate—the wind racing from the west, a strong current streaming from the east, an inbound tanker, two pilot boats, and little Pamela. It seems we will all crash into one another in the maelstrom. A foghorn from the bridge blasts 150 decibels straight into my face. One of the pilot boats approaches me with a flashing blue light. Should I pull over? As if!
It is the scariest moment of my three years at sea. In a dramatic minute it is all over. I’m through the Golden Gate! The sea is calm and the ghost freighter with the pilot boat in tow is steaming out of sight. A flock of pelicans comes to greet me making phantom silhouettes against the faded lights of the city, then the lights come alive as I sail past Ghirardelli and Coit Tower. The towers of the financial district twinkle at me. My heart is pounding. I’m home! I’m home! Then continuing down the dark bay I settle into a night of soft, languid cruising, arriving at Redwood Creek in time to watch the sunrise.
And there she is to greet me. Her long hair shines softly in the morning light. She holds Little Bear by his leash so he will not dive into the water to chase a duck, and as Pamela points her way into her new slip he lifts his ears when I call his name in that special call that only he and I use. He stares at me with the most intent and focused expression I could imagine in a canine. Then he recognizes me. It has been three years. He breaks from the leash and dives toward the boat that is nudging its way into the slip. With his hind legs on the dock and his fore legs on Pamela’s rail he straddles for a moment as we grapple with the mooring lines, nearly falling into the drink, then leaps aboard! This 11-year old puppy who has difficulty climbing up onto the bed has no trouble springing aboard Pamela. A second later he is sniffing everything in the cockpit, licking my face, and barking in wild canine ecstasy all in the same moment.
My heart breaks into a 100 billion pieces, one for each star in the Milky Way.
Can there ever be a past or future to rival the present?