This is the seventh instalment of reporter Colin Harper’s “Living on Bitcoin” experience in San Francisco. Find out what happened to him earlier on Day 1 , on Day 2 , on Day 3 , onDay 4, on Day 5 and on Day 6.
I woke to the sound of thin but consistent rain against the sailboat. A gentle storm soon rolled in to softly rock the harbor’s rustbucket bedfellows, a few spurts of lightning distant and crackling across the bay.
Dustin wasn’t up yet so I made a cup of coffee (gods be praised) and went above the deck of the Velela — the name Dustin’s sailboat came with when he bought it four years ago. The previous owner (a marine biologist) was inspired by the jellyfish of the same name, which can hoist a sail-like fin in the air to propel itself more quickly through the water.
The Velela resting in the harbor.
After Dustin got up (and we wolfed down some bacon-n-egg burritos), we made preparations, which included stuffing a rubber skiff into his Honda Fit, and we set out on the open water. The day was graying as we left the docking area, with a misting of rain so faint you could barely feel it on your skin.
Once we’d motored out far enough, Dustin hoisted the sails. Swelling with the bay’s untamable winds, the sails vaulted us forward and pushed the boat to the right — a bit more than I would have liked.
“This is safe, right? It’s not going to tip over?” I asked apprehensively.
“I wouldn’t exactly call sailing a safe activity,” Dustin said with a smile that managed to be both carefree and severe.
“But it’s not going to tip over, is it?”
“Probably not,” he joked. “But really, there’s a huge weight in the middle of the hull, so we’ll be fine.”
We were headed for the city’s waterfront, a 10-mile trek, give or take. The wind was against us, though, so we had to get there by tacking, a maritime navigation technique that involves sailing diagonally with the wind and cutting an angle to switch back toward your destination (basically making a zigzag pattern).
Roughly 10 miles out from San Francisco, the city’s skyline faintly visible to the right.
Dustin pulled out what he called the autohelm, a smart tablet ((Even the boats in Silicon Valley have iPads) that keeps track of speed, depth, GPS, trajectory and supposedly can even steer the ship using this USB-plunger attachment on the wheel, which looks uncannily like the suction sections of those automatic pumps for milking cows.
He put it to work, the mechanic whir and churn of the plunger struggling to keep the boat on course as the weather worsened. I had the feeling that, under conditions, the autohelm would have performed admirably.
The heavy force of the wind and waves, though, eventually overpowered the automaton’s control over the boat. Dustin “fired” it and took the wheel.
Looking out to my right, I noticed a blackened cloud, dark and gnarly, billowing up, the kind that looks ready to dump at any moment. The rain was falling a bit more steadily (though not too heavily), and the wind was picking up, causing the waves to chop savagely away at the haul.
Before I could convey my concerns, Mother Nature decided to blow them into the open. A gust of wind bruised the sails and sent the ship tipping and the cabin’s contents flying below. The ship was at an angle when the clatter of Dustin’s belongings became audible as they were flung about below.
Should have kept that skiff at hand. And now that I think about it, where are the life vests?
“Let out that line!” Dustin commanded, taking on the urgent persona of a captain as he strained to turn the boat against the lean. “As much as you can!”
I released a line connected to the bow’s sail and it went slack. Dustin rushed to the midsection while I took over the wheel and he let down the mainsail, finally disarming the wind. The entire ordeal, which felt like it took some time, probably lasted a minute at most.
“I think we should turn back,” I observed brilliantly.
“You think so?” he said with a heave of nervous laughter.
We got back (thankfully) right before the boat’s motor died, but we were still eight spots away from Dustin’s space in the dock. With the help of two good samaritans, we towed the sailboat back to its place with painstaking attentiveness. Dustin didn’t relax until she was safely moored.
“Whew! I’m still up on adrenaline!” he hollered when the boat was docked
Most people get stressed into a knot when their car battery dies. Imagine that happening except it’s a boat in open water and it almost capsizes. Oh, and the boat is also your house.
I said goodbye to Dustin over another burrito and sent him some sats for the trouble. After we parted ways, I grabbed a Lyft and headed just south of the Tenderloin district to cryptografitti’s place.
The apartment is on brand for an artist. Sterile, with neutral tones of chrome and white across each room, the flat was extremely well kept. Art of various styles decorates the place: a postmodern painting…