As we neared the border of the United States (San Diego), with Navy helicopters buzzing back and forth plus three or more Navy warships in constant maneuvers, the first signs of re-entry onto a life on land began and both Andrew and I had a lot to anticipate after a year on the high seas. But the INNcredible journey wasn’t ready to let us go, certainly not without a few more challenges. Just as we crossed into US waters our steering cable snapped and we were spinning round and drifting back toward Tijuana and Rosarita Beach. This had to look strange to the eyes in the sky from the Navy helicopters as we were trying to assess what to do. Employing the emergency tiller was our second response but not until I tried just using the two motors to guide our course back toward our homeland. Another unfamiliar obstacle were the floating islands of kelp and even though we tried dodging them with the emergency tiller it wasn’t long before kelp had entangled our starboard prop and began to shudder. I put that motor into neutral until we approached the entrance to the harbor and shallower water. Trying again the starboard prop but with no freedom from that kelp-induced shudder, I put it back into neutral and did a u-turn and headed back out of the harbor entrance and over toward the shoreline into shallow water and dropped our anchor. This sudden maneuver again must have looked strange to the eyes in the sky too especially when I put on my wetsuit, snorkel and fins and dove overboard. Overboard I discovered what I thought, a twisted ball of giant kelp which I proceeded to cut out over numerous dives holding my breath.
Adding a bit more drama to the day was the irony that as I was clearing the kelp from around the prop the incoming tide and strong onshore winds were entangling the anchor lines at the bow with heavy masses of even more kelp. So before we could even think of turning any propellers we had to free our bow of all this kelp. Free at last, we raised the anchor as fast as we could, watching more masses of kelp floating our way. Engines full ahead, Andrew on the emergency tiller and I at the helm we got back into the harbor entrance and headed for the customs dock. With all the helicopters buzzing overhead and the strange maneuvers that we had been doing we thought sure we were going to be intercepted and boarded by the Coastguard and customs even before we reached the dock. But no, no one approached, no one boarded, no one even met us at the dock. So we unloaded all the drugs without incident (I’m just kidding but we just had expected a much tighter security). I radioed the harbormaster for instructions which included having to call on my phone several times the Customs officer and waiting about an hour at the dock until boarded for clearing. Two very cordial officers filled out their forms, checked our passports and boat papers and without any search of our boat welcomed us home. We asked for a stamp on our passports, just as a souvenir, but that’s not procedure when the USA is home.
At a long overdue full night’s sleep tied at dock, we woke to our first day in America and a very long walk on land to find a place to have breakfast – a good old American breakfast at no other than Denny’s. Andrew ordered everything on the menu and I a veggie omelet.
The re-entry process had really just began, the intensity of which was still to build itself as each new day unfolded the onslaught of chores and responsibilities. The days and months of living barefoot and free aboard the INNcredible Sea Lodge with one mission to accomplish, albeit a BIG mission, – the INNcredible Journey of over 10,000 miles near halfway around the globe was nearing its completion but first the last 102 miles. Another overnight sail, San Diego to Marina del Rey past the busiest harbor on the west coast in the dark, could have been a real challenge if both of us were required with one at the helm and one holding the emergency tiller but it wasn’t because shortly after we limped into San Diego harbor using the emergency tiller Andrew pointed out that the autopilot probably still worked. And yes it did after we removed the split steering cable out of its way. So this autopilot which we relied on all these miles guided us to our final destination.
Making better than expected time through the night we entered the breakwater at Marina Del Rey at shortly after sunrise. Our reception had to wait a while but eventually Charlie from Naos Yacht Sales (our broker from whom we ordered the boat two years before arrived in his dinghy with Champagne and a small entourage to greet us and celebrate over lunch on the INNcredible enjoying the last of our 17lb. Yellow Tail grilled on the Barbie accompanied with a curried butternut squash which made it all the way from the Canary Islands where we departed in late November for the Atlantic crossing (that butternut was incredible). The INNcredible Journey was now complete. I thank my lucky stars, both Andrew and I are healthy and safe with few scars but a year’s worth of tall tales of life aboard the INNcredible Sea Lodge and the twenty some odd countries we visited, the wonderful people we met and both the entertainment we enjoyed and nourishment we ate from the abundant life that calls our oceans their home. With time I will post the best of so many pictures I took and eventually I create a slide/video recap to share with all. Until then Happy trails to you and keep coming back to follow what’s next for the INNcredible Sea Lodge.