Our sailboat, the Sharon Ann, was perfect for our weekend sailing trips to Catalina and holidays to places like Cabo San Lucas. I would sit with Dad in the cockpit sometimes all night long, plus down below was stuffy and it made me nauseous. The cold air and salty sprays of the Pacific Ocean would splatter us throughout the night, but I didn’t care. I loved being on deck. The wind in her sails, the Sharon Ann would cut through the Pacific deep swells with her narrow hull like a knife through butter. At night, the moon danced across her white sails while the broken waves sparkled with living organisms and jellyfish. An occasional flying fish hit the deck and sometimes flopped into the cockpit, making Dad and I jump up, grab the fish net, and toss them back. We spent several hours in silence and several more talking. It was on these sailing trips that I grew to love rainbows. Rainbows on the horizon, rainbows arching over the cliffs and beaches, rainbows dancing in our bow’s splash, and my favorite was the rainbow flag Dad flew off the stern rigging. He told me it represented peace and signified a neutral ship on the waters for all nations. So, rainbows became a sign of peace and harmony to me at an early age.
It was the early 1970s and people were legally changing their names. When I found out my only two cousins had changed their names, I wanted to change mine to Rainbow, but my parents wouldn’t allow it and felt hurt I didn’t like my given name. I wrote Rainbow on all my school notebooks, wore clothes with rainbows from shirts, shoes, to swimsuits, and rainbow ribbons and clips in my hair.
In my heart, rainbow will always stand for: good fortune, peace, pride, promise, and love.
An excerpt from Girl Sailing Aboard the Western Star:
One night, Dad asked me to take over the helm for a few minutes so he could rest his eyes. He told me the nautical compass heading we should follow for the next few hours, and that was all I had to do. Keep us on course by following the heading. The compass number had to stay on the little line indicating the direction our bow was pointing.
The Sharon Ann didn’t have autopilot. I was her autopilot on that trip. Dad sat and watched me for a while, but soon he was sound asleep. At night, with or without an autopilot, someone must stay on deck to watch for ships, containers, timber logs, whales, and other items a boat can collide with. These items could easily sink a boat, Dad had repeated over and over. As I kept the Sharon Ann’s setting, the sun was peeking up on the horizon.
Dad woke up hours later. At the time, I wasn’t sure what he was looking for besides land. He checked our heading and asked if I’d kept the line on the heading number that he gave me for the whole night. He disappeared down the hatch to the navigational station below and told Mom what he had done.
After he checked the nautical charts, he said we should see land in about two hours. I had no doubt because I stared into the compass all night and didn’t let us move off that heading. What he didn’t say, he and Mom were terrified that we were lost at sea.
But I didn’t see it, maybe not at age eight, or because they didn’t want me to panic or feel guilty if we were lost at sea. The thought of being lost at sea…they must have been worried out of their minds.
Girl Sailing Aboard the Western Star can be purchased on Amazon or order it from any book store near you!
I knew a rainbow guided us safely to shore!
“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
― Maya Angelou