The phone rang at 0511 and what followed was a truncated conversation with a strong-sounding Ronnie Simpson who was “inside the Gate” and—he’s now ashore—safe, after his borrowed 30-footer dropped its keel 800 miles off the coast on the return from the Singlehanded Transpac.
Warrior’s Wish was returning from Hawaii to San Francisco Bay, a distance of 2,300 miles, when the keel sheared off, leaving the boat at risk of capsize, hour to hour and moment to moment.
I followed those last 800 miles on tenterhooks, along with a lot of other people, though our “tenterhooks” were nothing compared to life aboard. Ronnie and crewmate Ed McCoy spent their time in the cockpit, life raft and ditch bag at the ready. In a case of ill fortune, it was a rare good fortune that the seas left them a mild window for their unstable craft, all the way to the coast.
Ronnie was headed to Richmond, in the East Bay—a distance from the entrance to the bay—and his phone kept cutting out, so we never had a coherent conversation. He did say that, on the final approach, “The seas were on the beam, so it was difficult for the boat, but they were swells, not wind waves.”
I believe I understood that he had an escort of not one but four boats for the passage through the strait.
And there was a moment when he put the phone down because of a wake from commercial traffic, and then the phone went dead—not for the first time—but I was confident even then that all would be well with Warrior’s Wish. Before the race, Ronnie told me, when I asked what’s it like to go in two years from nonsailor-never-even-thought-about-it to, as he says, “working in the sailing sector; playing in the sailing sector, living in the sailing sector—
“I own less, and I make less than I ever have.
“And I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”
I hope that’s still true. It’s been a ride and a half.