God Rays Under the Water

27 Days Sailing from KAUA’I to CALIFORNIA, Part IV

Each day, just as evening began to shade the sky, an enormous, rippling line across the horizon in front of us appeared, darkly ominous, growing bigger and bigger. The first time I saw it I about wet my pants!

God Rays Under the Water

In no time at all, it was upon us. The sea was spitting and boiling, surrounding and encircling us. The boiling morphed into jumpy wavelets, curling splashes and tiny bubbles. What the hell??

But surprise! Now we could hear the happy squeaks and grunts and blowing-outs of so many dolphins I couldn’t count them all.

They circled us, round and round, leaping out of the water by the bow, surfing our wake and bow-wave, greeting us so joyously. My guts felt like the dolphins were inside of me, bubbling and perking like ready coffee in my belly.

They came every evening. I laughed and hooted and hollered with giddiness each time – it never got old. Beside myself with happiness, I clapped my hands and called to them, and they hooted and clicked and performed sky-high twisty splashy jump-dives.

They’d stay for ten or fifteen minutes, until suddenly, as one, they decided they had a hot date elsewhere and jetted off. They were gone so fast it was like someone flipped a gone-switch.

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.

At night, we loved looking over the side of the boat, down into the waves the hull made as it glided through the pitch-black water. No longer simple bow waves, they transformed into surreal, sudsy lines softly billowing out from the boat – gently undulating wave-wings – frothy, thick, brilliantly glowing neon-blue fairy trails of phosphorescence.

When the moon was on the other side of the planet and we only had stars to light the sky, there was no horizon line. On nights with no wind, we floated in a snow-globe, stars above, stars reflected in the water below us. Those frothy bow waves seemed like airy paths we could just jump out onto to run away to middle earth or some other magical kingdom.

I’m no singer, but I can kinda carry a bit of a tune, so I brought my deep-voiced 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.

I was lonely. But I wasn’t about to try to socialize with a creep. James had turned sulky – ashamed, I suppose, by his failed attempt to seduce/rape me, and unable to reconnect to the fun we had had at the send-off dinner on Kaua’i. I admit I didn’t encourage him, nor did I know how to reconnect, either. So we both ended up solo together.

Eventually, all that fell away in light of astonishment for what I was doing — the grandest adventure of my life at that point. I made up songs about the vibrant presence of the vast ocean, the doldrums, the busted sail, the dolphins, the stars, the dreams, almost falling overboard — it all swooshed and combined and detonated something in my brain. It flowed out of my fingertips into words that I stuck strange musical sounds to, and even sang.

I’m not sure I’d call them songs, really, but it was fun trying to sing them and 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. 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 yanked down and secured the sails, threw out the sea anchor, hauled out the boat ladder and jumped in, diving down deep to swim and luxuriate in this luscious liquid jewel.

The water was perfect. Just warm enough to not freeze our butts off, but cool enough to not feel like bathwater. Salty silk caressing our skin.

I dived way under and looked back up. The most glorious, vivid sun rays shone down and around the boat into the water below, as if an angel had come to sit on deck, radiating his light into the entire vicinity.

The boat cast its shadow darkly against 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.

A couple of days after leaving Kaua’i, I had started throwing out a fishing line. Day after day, no bites. I tried early in the morning, mid-day, 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 from Hawaii to the west coast, there was no day we didn’t encounter enormous, aircraft carrier-sized sheets of dried grey Navy ship paint floating on the surface.

We had to sail around and between them to avoid getting the propeller sludged up. I puzzled how they got there – was the Navy peeling the paint off their ships out in the ocean rather than at dry docks? I still don’t know. Maybe they were from something else. Oil rigs maybe?

An unending plethora of plastic milk-carton crates, glass and plastic fishing balls of all sizes, and semi-submerged piles of trash floated from horizon to horizon. It was like a damn obstacle course. I cried. We have turned our ocean into a soggy, disgusting garbage pit.

We kept sailing at night, slowly, carefully avoiding the trash we could see, scraping the bottom on trash we couldn’t.

But what magic on nights with no moon! Because we were hundreds of miles away from artificial light and atmospheric pollution, there were so many stars, so bright and so close, you could practically scoop them out of the heavens with your hands.

The Milky Way was such a thick star lane we could almost get out and walk on it. Together with the phosphorescence, we floated in the center of a world of sparkling stellar alchemy.

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

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

A slight, odd movement in the water caught my attention. I looked over the side, where there were now a dozen gigantic shadows – some almost as long as the boat, some longer. It was still too dark to determine exactly what they were.

The jitters started climbing up my back, raising the hairs on my neck straight up. My hand trembled on the tiller. We were surrounded. My heart wanted to jump out of my chest – what the heck – kraken? Monsters?

The sky got lighter. One of the dark shapes edged closer to the side of the boat. I prayed it wouldn’t bump into and capsize us. I didn’t want to even think about trying to lower the life boat and paddle away from whatever those dark shadows were.

But no, all it did was rise its huge bulk gracefully, silently, to the surface. A whale! It was a whole pod of whales! Every one of them 25 feet long or more.

This one was longer than the boat. It rotated its body enough that its dinner-plate-sized eye was right -there- in my face, looking straight up into my eyes, piercing my being, slipping into my deepest mind.

I was captivated. The most exquisitely delicate ribbons of peace wrapped around us both. I felt like I’d been given the gift of heaven. Such a calm soul, such serenity, such stature.

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

They took turns, each one 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.

As the sun came clear of the horizon and lit us up, I could discern marks and colors, scrapes and scratches on each whale. Given more time, I could have gotten to know and name each individual.

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

The next day, we left the shipping lanes. That evening, the dolphins didn’t come. Nor the next night. Soon we’d be approaching Santa Cruz. I felt bereft, abandoned.

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

They popped right out of the water all around us, splashing and jumping straight up right off our bow, arching and twisting, sleek acrobats, 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 came within sight of the docks. In a blink, they disappeared. I was heart broken they were gone, at the same time it was full to its tippy-top brim.

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

Mostly though, I was sad that we had at last arrived 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 horrendous company, I still would have kept going. 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, all the way down the coast, all the way to and down past Mexico.

I thought about the incredible things we’d seen and experienced, and was overwhelmed with gratitude.

I thought about how I could have died or gotten badly 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 uncaring storms, the ceaseless waves.

And then I thought about how I’m a survivor — 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 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 feeling morbid, sulky, whiny, or angry at what a dud he was, for the whole 27 days.

But why spend my life energy on those downer things? How you feel is how you vibrate, and how you vibrate is how you LIVE, and boy, did I ever feel alive!

p.s. And I still love tomatoes!

to be continued…


Thanks so much for reading my story.

I hope it lit you up. Or maybe it inspired you, or gave you a new perspective with which to view and appreciate your own life. That’s my wish.


God Rays Under the Water
27 Days Sailing from KAUA’I to CALIFORNIA, Part IV

© Angela Treat Lyon 2023

Image: God Rays
© Angela Treat Lyon 2021

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.

This image is an original pen and ink drawing, using a beautiful smoky black Japanese Sumi ink on heavy watercolor paper. If you’d like a print of this image, please contact me.

You can get all 7 books in the INSIDE SECRETS series in print on amazon, or get the ebooks at atlyon.gumroad.com.


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