Peter Shelton

The Airplane View

Posted in How the West was Lost, Personal History by pshelton on September 20, 2015

You can’t go home again. But I was going home to southern California to help my mother following her total knee replacement, an elective trauma none of her children was sure she should undertake at 90. She had made up her mind, though, and she’d made it through surgery and was about to return to her own home. I’d carved two weeks out of my calendar and prepared for a stint as Nurse Peter. (more…)

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…)

Good Grief, Fathers Never Fail

Posted in Personal History, Watch columns by pshelton on June 16, 2011

What are fathers if not heroes to their sons?

My dad agreed to take me trolling aboard the Good Grief. I had a new trolling rig, a scaled-down version of one of those stout fiberglass rods with the massive reels you saw being cranked by marlin fisherman off the tip of Baja. If theirs were the size of coffee-tins, mine was more like a can of beans.

But I was stoked. And my friend Strany was stoked. We flung our bright-feathered jigs over the stern as Dad accelerated out of the calm water inside the jetties. I think we caught a couple of bonito right outside the breakwater. That got us jacked, but we were hoping for yellowtail, or something even bigger.

We were rolling downwind, southeast along the coast from Newport Harbor. The Laguna hills poured down into rocky coves. Dana Point was just visible through the sea haze. Dad thought we might get that far before turning around.

We hardly noticed the swell. It was maybe three-to-four feet to start, and growing. But when you’re running before a following sea, and at a leisurely seven knots – top speed for the Grief – you hardly notice the swell. With Dad at the helm, I sat on the transom eagerly eyeing my rod tip. (more…)