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Sailing Mexico, day 11 & 12: home sweet home in San Diego and Long Beach.

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Point Loma, San Diego

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Day 11

The last day of our trip. In 10 days we had traveled over 700 miles, saw a lot of cool stuff, learned a lot of new things, and almost died. We were on the home stretch, almost at the borders.

You can tell you’re near the US-Mexico border when there are aircraft carriers patrolling the area. They’re probably from the San Diego Naval Station out on routine exercises.

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I asked Captain Graham if we could get closer to the aircraft carrier. I wanted to see it up close. He said that they would warn us once not to approach any closer, then blow us out of the water. Don’t mess with Uncle Sam.

At 1pm, we arrived in San Diego. The beautiful skyline was visible from afar.

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San Diego Coronado Bridge

The navy was out and about on that Friday afternoon. Helicopters were buzzing and an aircraft carrier was either docking or disembarking. It dwarfed all the sailboats.

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We had to dock at the Naval Center first. Captain Graham informed Alex and I that we had to go through customs and immigration. U.S. Border Patrol officers would step onto our ship, review our passports, and ask us questions. He told us to say that we were all friends just helping each other bring the boat back up, and that we can’t mention work due to not having work visas.

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The area in which U.S. Border Patrol processed our immigration.

Captain Graham said that his boat had been stripped apart before by customs officers. Sometimes they’re friendly and it’s all a piece of cake, other times they’re a pain in the ass. He said that one time, a dog sniffed within the inner walls of the boat, and he was forced to take apart of the pipes that processed the toilet. “You know that the boat will smell like shit?” He had asked the officer. “Yes, do it anyway,” the officer responded. A shitty move, #punny.

Because it was a Friday, and that it was just past lunch, Captain Graham anticipated the timing to be more favorable for us, hoping the officers would be sleepy and in a TGIF mood.

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I was nervous. Nothing to worry about, right? Alex and I were just a few travelers bringing a boat back up, albeit compensated some cash for our efforts… that’s okay, right?

The officers came on board. They were armed. Sunglasses. Not friendly looking. Bad cop, bad cop.

They separated us. I was asked to sit in the cockpit while they processed Alex first. Then Alex came up, and I was called down.

“What was the purpose of your trip? Are you bringing in any illegal substances? Are you bringing in anything at all? How do you know Captain Graham? Who introduced you? What are you doing on this boat with him?”

The two officers sat across from me, while Captain Graham sat to the side quietly. I recall him just smiling and closing his eyes, calm as always. The questioning felt like interrogations and lasted over 5 minutes. I stuttered and stumbled upon some of my words, especially how I knew him. I wished that we had briefed more on what we were not supposed to say. I couldn’t say “We were paid to help him bring this boat back up” for tax reasons.

In the end, they stamped the passport and I breathed a sigh of relief. I asked if I could take a picture of them. Dumb question is dumb, they obviously said no.

Since we were free to go, it was time to refuel the Pacifico and get some lunch! We started the boat and were on our way.

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The green area was where the Pacifico was being refueled. We left the boat there and walked into the yellow area to get lunch.

Alex was happy. He had grown sick of Mexican food and was thrilled to eat a “good ‘ol American burger.” The meat portion was large, unlike the thinly sliced beef patty that we saw in Turtle Bay.

We headed back to the boat after lunch. Captain Graham wanted us to leave San Diego as soon as possible because we still needed 12 hours to get to Long Beach. We undocked from the fueling station right before 5pm.

It was good to be back in the US. Despite how fun the trip was, I recall feeling relieved being in familiar territory. Seeing the sailing teams competing, waving at kayakers, and seeing rows of beach homes gave me a sense of security.

As we left the channel, we passed by a destroyer escorting a surfaced submarine.

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Northwest we went! Knowing the names of the locations on the radar felt good, and it was super cool being able to identify each city or pier that we passed by.

Here’s the sun setting at 8:56pm.

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And the moon up above at 9:02pm.

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Day 12

We were scheduled to arrive at 5am. I volunteered to take the final night watch from 12-3am. Captain Graham said he would take over after 3am, since he have to manually steer into the Long Beach docks.

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I think this was Huntington Beach.

Captain Graham came up to the cockpit before my shift ended. He then said something that I will never forget for the rest of my life.

You know Andy… I hired you and Alex because you both looked young and capable. Alex has been a bit of a let down, and he talks a little too much. But you really stepped up and have been a tremendous help. I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you. I’d bet my money on you any day.

If you ever want to do any more sailing, you can contact me at any time. Bring your friends and we can do a day trip around the harbor or go to Catalina Island.

Think of my position then: 19 years old, still insecure, doesn’t know what he wants to do in life, doesn’t know where life will take him. Being told that by a Stanford alum and Navy Lieutenant veteran, with an impressive career as a businessman and electric/mechanical engineer who retired at 48 years old. I wasn’t sleepy anymore. No way I could sleep after hearing those words.

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We talked up until we pulled into Long Beach Harbor at 5:15am. Captain Graham shared a bunch of stories, and he further revealed his capacity as an inspirational person. He became my mentor and role model then and there.

We finally docked at 5:29am, and I tied the Pacifico onto the Shoreline Yacht Club, in Long Beach CA.

We slept until about 8:30am, then woke up to put the boat to sleep. Captain Graham’s wife Deanna drove down to help, and the four of us cleaned the entire boat. We finished at 12:30pm and drove home.

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July 17, 2010. The end of our Baja California sailing trip.

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2 Comments

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Ron! No, I haven’t done any sailing in the past few years. Picked up scuba diving and traveling elsewhere, although the goal is to get a sailboat one day. 🙂

      Like

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