When I wake up, eyes still closed, I can feel the rocking motion of the boat: up and down, slow, lulling. It takes me a moment to remember that I’m in a bed on dry land. After nine and a half days without setting foot on shore, my body is convinced of a world in constant motion.
Our finish into Ketchikan was a dazed triumph: 1:30 in the morning, a few people from the race to cheer us from the dock regardless of the hour: photos ringing the finish bell, interviewed on the livestream, Alaskan Ambers brought for the team.
We followed the sounds of rowdy drunks to the only place still serving food, the Pioneer Cafe, and sat in a sort of staring, happy haze for two hours, Liam in and out of sleep at the table. When our food finally arrived — enormous greasy plates of biscuits and gravy and eggs and sausages and french fries — we devoured it.
Louistic, who tired of fighting the tidal current, anchored up and arrived the next morning, to be greeted on the docks by team members from Rite of Passage, Fashionably Late, High Seas Drifters, the race crew, and of course our whole team.
Other teams are still out there — and to be honest, the longer you take on this course, the more you deserve a medal.
We’re sad to not get to cheer in Goldfinch, who it seems had to make a quick stop for repairs, and who are taking the more conservative inside route. As I write, they’re still 56 nautical miles away, making a 1.5 knots in the light wind that can only be a grueling pedal across the Dixon Entrance.
Meanwhile, in Ketchikan, Ert organized a bar crawl for the finishers. Starting at the Cabaret open mic featuring solid stand-up, the most impassioned harmonica I’ve ever heard, and an R2AK blog post reading by yours truly, then devolving to a thorough tour of downtown’s dive bars, the still-delirious teams stayed out shooting pool and buying each other rounds until the bars kicked us out at closing.
I’m boarding my flight now, but in my mind I’m still out on the water. I’m thinking of the blazing heat of sudden downwind sunshine, the harrowing cold of wind chill on the midnight shift; the unending patience, kindness, and good humor that defined the dynamic of our team and manifested as laughter, home-cooked meals, and endless thermoses of herbal tea.