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Coast Pilot
Coast Pilot
Wax covered book

My dad hauled around a 1976 copy of the United States Coast Pilot 7 (Pacific Coast) for over 30 years. It moved with him from one boat to another, and finally to a garage in El Cajon, CA. When we were going through his things after he passed, I wasn’t sure what to do with this very outdated coastal guide, but I couldn’t bear to throw it out… I decided it needed to keep having a life and a voice, so I went through it, picking out passages, and eventually carved a poem out of the block of text.

This book is about trying to manage the unknown- its purpose is to keep sailors from getting lost along the coast.

When reading, I expected to find a rather dry description of landmarks, harbors, and regulations (and there is plenty of that), but I was surprised to find lovely, descriptive passages in this government document- moments of poetry. I wondered about the humans writing about the coast. In the back of the book I found a form that mariners could fill out to contribute their observations on navigating the area. Ultimately, United States Coast Pilot 7 is a compilation of stories of the beauty and uncertainty of travelling between the sea and rocks.

Here is the text I cut out:

fog or low clouds form
over the ocean

dark in contrast

In a heavy swell
aggravated by gales

the coast becomes bold.

spells of cloud
broken by bright sunshine

No passage should be

there are no anchorages for
strangers that afford shelter from all winds.