Sometimes opportunity doesn’t just knock; it crashes right through the front door. Take the Southern California adventure trip that is the subject of this story, for example. The Channel Islands and their foreboding cliffs have exerted a longtime attraction for this author and trail runner. And the 1986 Farallon 25 known as Spectre, once a centerpiece of Jeff Elings’ adventurous lifestyle, was now dry-docked on its trailer, sidelined by his recent marriage. He needed the sea, and I needed the islands in them. And so it came to pass that Jeff and his Farallon, and I and my running shoes, fit together like balsamic and vinegar, Bocelli and bocce ball, fishing and fish tales.
But while we were planning our island trek, a third passenger appeared on our list: U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarist Roy Graboff. Unbeknownst to either Elings or me, Boating had commissioned Roy to join our trip, examining the doings of a pair of typical boaters and offering corrective advice (hard-knuckled as necessary).
At precisely 8:30 a.m. on a Wednesday, Spectre motored up to the visitors’ dock in Channel Islands Harbor. Immediately and with little fanfare, Roy stepped aboard and made his presence, if not his intent, known.
“Where are your dock lines?” Roy barked the moment he saw Jeff’s shoestring-size units. “You need half-inch lines on this boat. These are a joke.”
A longtime boater, and before that a corporate executive, Graboff has a stern countenance that matches his regulation Coast Guard Auxiliary uniform. Boots polished and an inflatable life vest around his neck, he broadcast a no-nonsense image backed up by an all-business demeanor.