27 Days from KAUA’I to CALIFORNIA, Part III

On nights with no moon, if you looked over the side into the water, the waves the hull made as it glided through the pitch-black water frothed up thick, sudsy lines of brilliantly glowing neon-blue phosphorescence.

Under the Surface: the Mystery

I’m no singer, but I can kinda carry a bit of a tune, so I brought my 8-string tenor ukulele with me on our cross-Pacific odyssey. I was thinking that I’d have lots of time to practice a few chords, and maybe memorize some of the Hawaiian songs I’d learned at Kaua’i community center classes. When it was James’ watch, I’d go sit on the bowsprit and study, strumming and humming.

Eventually, astonishment for what I was doing — the grandest adventure of my life at that point — the incredible presence of the vast ocean, these life-changing events — all combined and detonated something in my brain that came out of my fingertips into words on paper that I then stuck strange musical sounds to.

I’m not sure I’d call them songs, really, but it was fun trying to sing them and trying to make them work right. James didn’t like how I sounded, so I figured I was getting somewhere. He was such a pill about it by the last week of the trip I put the ukulele away. Maybe he was right — they certainly weren’t award winners.

But I was compensated in a big way.

At about 5 pm each day, we’d see a dark, rippling line across the horizon in front of us, which grew to look like a huge section of the sea ahead was boiling. In no time at all, the boiling became wavelets and splashes and bubbles, then surrounded us.

I about wet my pants in anxiety, the first time it happened — what in the hell??

But surprise! It was filled with the happy squeaks and grunts and blowing-outs of so many dolphins I couldn’t count them all.

They came each evening, circling the boat a few times, jumping out of the water by the bow, swimming in our wake and bow-wave, greeting us so joyously.

I felt giddy each time — I laughed and hooted and hollered and clapped my hands and called to them, and they responded with hoots and clicks and sky-high jump-dives. Until they finally decided they had a hot date elsewhere and swam off. It’s hard to imagine any creature more joyful than those dolphins.

It made me wonder why humans make life so hard, and especially, so hard on each other. What if we all laughed and jumped and splashed and sang so joyously, all day? What a world that would be. If seeing those guys dancing around us every night had been the single most wonderful thing about that trip, it would have been plenty.

Three or four days after we got east of the Doldrums, the water’s color suddenly changed from a light silvery sheen on the surface and a greyish teal underwater to the most beautiful clear tropical turquoisey blue.

What a treat! How could we resist? We threw out the sea anchor, jumped in, diving down deep to swim and luxuriate in this liquid jewel.

Under the water, looking back up at the boat, it seemed as if an angel had come to sit on deck — the most vivid, glorious sun rays shone down and around the boat, into the water below. The boat cast its shadow darkly through the rays, a sharp reminder during a fun playtime that life is a balance of dark and light, and not to lose sight of that.

What a sight, those rays. I felt blessed. Even James was smiling.

There were days that I tried throwing out a fishing line with bait, but no bites. I tried early in the morning, late afternoon, various baits, no bait, fake wiggly worms, lures — nothing. That whole thing you see in movies about people fishing in the middle of the ocean when they got stuck out there? Myth. At least for me, anyway. I’d have starved!

All the way out to the middle of the ocean and beyond, there was no day we didn’t encounter enormous, football field-sized sheets of dried Navy grey paint floating on the surface. We had to sail around them to avoid getting the propeller sludged up.

There were hundreds of plastic milk cartons, plastic fishing floats of all sizes, semi-submerged piles of trash.

It was like a damn obstacle course sometimes. I cried. We have turned our ocean into a soggy, disgusting garbage pit.

But what magic at night! We kept sailing, though — slower, avoiding the trash we couldn’t see.

On nights with no moon, if you looked over the side into the water, the waves the hull made as it glided through the pitch-black water frothed up thick, sudsy lines of brilliantly glowing neon-blue phosphorescence.

Looking up into space, because there was no atmospheric or light pollution, there were so many stars, so bright and so close, it was as if you could scoop them out of the heavens with your hands.

The Milky Way was like a thick star lane we could get out and walk on.

Together with the phosphorescence, it seemed like we floated in the center of a globe of sparkling stellar magic.

As we slowly got closer and closer to the west coast, the phosphorescence disappeared. The ocean got colder; its scent changed — sharper, somehow, saltier. Although the days were still hot, I found myself wearing a light flannel shirt and long pants, to keep the wind chilling off.

In the early lavender dawn light three days outside of Santa Cruz, we slid along right in the middle of the shipping lanes. I was surprised we didn’t see any ships. I was on dawn watch.

A slight movement in the water caught my attention, and I looked down into the water to see a dozen or so gigantic shadows, some almost as long as the boat, some longer. It was still too dark to see what they were.

As the sky got lighter, I saw that we were surrounded.

One of the dark shapes edged closer and closer to the side of the boat. I prayed it wouldn’t bump us and make us capsize.

But no, all it did was rise to the surface until I could see it was a whale. Every one of them was a minimum of 25 feet long. This one rotated its body enough that its dinner-plate-sized eye was right there, looking straight up into my own eyes.

How long that lasted, I haven’t any idea — it seemed forever, and too brief.

I felt like I’d been given the gift of heaven. Such a calm soul, such serenity, such presence.

The whales took turns, swimming up close, rotating their bodies so their eye was on top, looking at me and me gazing back on them. I don’t know how I could tell, but it was so clear that each one had a completely different personality.

I called softly to James to hurry up on deck, but by the time he noisily clambered up, they had gone deep, matching the color of the deeper waters so well they were impossible to see.

The next day, we left the shipping lanes, and the dolphins stopped coming. I felt bereft, abandoned.

Surprise! As we entered Santa Cruz harbor, they reappeared — maybe the Pacific Ocean dolphins had passed us on to the California dolphins.

They proceeded to jump straight up out of the water right off our bows, arching like sleek acrobats in the air, diving in and bursting out, squeaking, clicking, singing — over and over and over and over, welcoming us, cheering us — ‘You made it! You’re here! Awesome! Helloooo! Wohooo!’

Until we were within sight of the docks.

All at once, they disappeared. I felt both staggeringly full in my heart, and totally sad they were gone.

I reached up to clear my eyes, and realized my cheeks were covered in streaks of tears. They were gone, but what a once-in-a-lifetime treat — they had greeted and loved us and good-bye’d.

Mostly though, I was sad that we were at last here in California, and we were going in.

Although we were virtually on our last cup of fresh, drinkable water, I despaired, because while James was lousy company, I still would have kept going if I could.

I knew I had to go home and be there for my boys. But man, I wanted to keep going.

I’d have kept going down the coast, all the way past Mexico.

I thought about the incredible things we’d seen and experienced, and was so grateful. And I thought about how I could have died or gotten really hurt in so many ways — I was appalled to think I could have died of nausea and hypothermia!

How droll! And how I could have fallen in and drowned, lost to the terrible enormity of the ocean, yet one more puny human sucked down by the ceaseless waves.

And then I thought about how I’m a survivor — I want to LIVE. I keep on keeping ON.

Not only do I want to live, I want to do it NOW, no holds barred, get out of my way, I will do what I know is best for me, I will do what it takes, and enjoy every minute of it if possible.

Imagine if I hadn’t conquered the seasickness beast — I wouldn’t have been able to experience all the other amazing things we went through.

Imagine if I’d held a grudge against stupid James — I could have been stuck in feeling morbid, sulky, whiny, or angry at what a dud James was.

But why spend my life energy on those downer things?

I think it’s about what you think, how you think, and how you feel.

Because how you feel is how you vibrate, and how you vibrate is how you LIVE, and boy, did I ever feel alive!

p.s. I still love tomatoes!


Thanks so much for reading my story. I hope it lit you up. Or maybe it inspired you, or made you curious, or gave you a new perspective with which to view and appreciate your own life. Or maybe take on a new exciting scary fun adventure! That’s my wish.


27 Days from KAUA’I to CALIFORNIA, Part III
Image: Under the Surface: the Mystery
text and image © Angela Treat Lyon 2021–2

This is an enhanced version of a story from my book, INSIDE SECRETS, Stories I’ve Never Told Anyone, Volume II. Illustrated with my artwork.

You can get all the books in this series in print on amazon, or get the Ebooks for $5 each (or pay what you want) at atlyon.gumroad.com.

The images in Volume II are all from original pen and ink drawings I did in Japanese Sumi ink on heavy watercolor paper. If you’d like one of the originals, or a print of this image, please contact me.


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