Elise's Catalina Story
When I was a child, my family frequently made the trouble-frought journey to Catalina island on my father’s pride and joy: an old Chinese junk held together with good intentions and rubberbands. It was so slow, its Chinese name translated into “The Flying Snail”. But sailing on the junk was magical. The sea and sky went on forever. Blue whales and flying fish would swim alongside the boat as seagulls soared overhead. Normal daily habits and rules of behavior did not apply on the boat. It was a discipline-free zone. The only rule on the Flying Snail was “One hand for yourself; one hand for the boat.”
My father was forced to sell his junk when I was seven, so most of my memories of Catalina are a random jumble of those things children find memorable. I remember one weekend when I ate nothing but dry Fruity Pebbles straight out of the box, and I once ate an entire package of Dutch chocolate sprinkles for lunch. I remember swimming in the frigid water and using marshmallows for fishing bait. I remember the spray of salt water and the permeating smell of fuel from the outboard motor. I remember the stench of the bilge and the damp weight of the lifejackets. I remember the gentle rocking of the waves and the swinging Chinese lanterns belowdeck.
When I was older, my parents and I would take the Catalina ferry to go snorkeling off of the Casino. And sometimes I boarded it for school field trips to the little town of Avalon. The Catalina ferry is the most horrible, lurching carnival ride of a boat in existence. It could make the most hardy of sailors hurl. It is the only boat that has ever made me queasy. The ocean playground of my childhood had been reduced to an unpleasant, nauseating trip to a little strip of shops filled with tourist junk. I just stopped going to Catalina altogether. That was twenty years ago.