Peter Shelton

Speak, Memory

Posted in Personal History, Watch columns by pshelton on February 23, 2012

The sea off Newport Harbor was a silvery gray. Not a ripple of wind marred the humping line of swells that rolled through the Catalina Channel.

Between the sea and an overcast dawn sky, the outline of Catalina Island sketched a long recumbent figure on the horizon 27 miles away. It was February, not bitter, but not exactly warm either. I tried opening the throttle all the way on Ogress, my father’s white fiberglass, 17-foot, ocean-going inboard outboard. But the swell was a little too big, or the interval between waves a little too short. At top speed of around 20 knots we were slamming the troughs with a keel-shuddering thud. So, I backed off the throttle until Ogress found a smooth pace, nose up, not quite planing over the glassy undulations.

I pulled the cellophane off a celebratory package of Tiparillos, chucked the wrapper into the endless ocean, and offered one to my classmate and new friend Jon Webb. We stood together at the helm, feet spread for balance, smoking those nasty, cheap things with the white plastic tips, kings of all we surveyed. (more…)