The image of my childhood home consumed by flames haunts my conscious thoughts. I think about walking the hallways where I took my first steps, my feet crunching on the embers that replace our belongings, leaving nothing but charred memories of what once was. Years of family history built and preserved by 4 walls, gone in a flash, and no Phoenix rises.
Although my poem above is just a figment of potential doom fueled by my anxiety, there are many families facing that reality right now. In the past 72 hours, California has experienced 10,800 lightning strikes and world record heat temperatures. There are 366 known fires blazing through the state, affecting many of my friends and immediate family’s homes. Even here on Avocet, we are being smothered with smoke from the nearest Holser and Lake Fires in Ventura and LA county. The red sky and smoke lingering at the harbor is very reminiscent of when Chris and I had to self-evacuate in 2018 when we sailed from Channel Islands Harbor to Santa Barbara to escape the heavy smoke and ash from the Woolsey Fire.
Although Chris and I are very safe aboard Avocet, our hearts are with everyone affected by these fires, especially with my hometown of Santa Cruz that is battling one of the larger fires in California. The Czu August Lightning Complex Fires have burned over 40,000 acres and consumed 20 structures while 8,600 are threatened. One of the structures destroyed by the fire was the historic Big Basin Headquarters at Big Basin State Park, which was the first State Park established in California in 1902. Currently, there is 0% containment, but our firefighters are working tirelessly.
As the fires continue to ravage the surrounding area of Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay, the air quality has significantly declined and the fire line has been growing dangerously close to Nicene Marks Forest, located right behind my family’s home. Luckily, my parents are safe as of now with an action plan for evacuation and my younger brother is here aboard Avocet visiting for what was supposed to be a 1-week stay, but now be an extended crew-ship.
With evacuation in mind, I keep reminding myself that my family home sits just above the beach and there are plenty of options for evacuating. I’m very thankful my dad goes the extra mile when it comes to safety concerns. He hoses down their roof hourly, he replaces the air scrubber filter constantly, and they have a car packed and ready in case an evacuation notice gets posted- his nickname is “Safety Mike” for a reason, and I am so beyond thankful that he is my dad.
As tourists flood into Santa Cruz County (despite the residents’ continuous pleas to stay out) it becomes harder for emergency personnel and evacuees to find shelter accommodations. Please, if you do not live in Santa Cruz or Monterey now is NOT the time to visit. Save our town and your lungs by waiting to visit when the fires are out and even better when COVID-19 is under control! City officials are asking all current visitors to leave immediately to increase available shelter space for those who are evacuating.
With our long term cruising plans, I constantly struggle with the thought of being away from our families and friends especially during times of struggle or emergency. With boat life comes freedom and adventure, but with family comes responsibility, and sometimes trying to blend the two can be extremely difficult. Fortunately, we both have very supportive families who continue to push us to live our dreams with the understanding that we will be a little more than just a few hour drive away at times (especially if we decide to sail across the globe!) Chris and I have already discussed that regular visits home to California will be a concrete part of our “cruising plan” because family is a cornerstone of our relationship that no grand adventure could ever replace.
Hug your loved ones and take care of yourselves out there. For information regarding the California fires please visit the CalFire website.
Sending you all love and light,