Twenty-six Miles


Those of us who live on the rim are blessed with a beautiful view of Mt. San Jacinto in the east, Saddleback (Santiago Peak) on the south and Santa Catalina Island to the southwest. All of these can be seen on a clear day, which is most of the time. But, as for Catalina, it has to be a very clear day, like after a Santa Ana windstorm.


Here at the stately Motley Manor, I can see all of these while sitting at my desk writing my weekly articles and correcting all of Rhea’s misplaced commas. That’s why they call me the “Comma Nazi.” OUCH! Hey, stop kicking me under the table.”


“Twenty-six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me, Santa Catalina, the island of romance, romance, romance, romance. Water all around it everywhere, tropical trees and the salty air. But for me the thing that’s a-waitin’ there is the salt sea air.” (“Twenty-six Miles” – The Four Preps – 1957)


It seems like yesterday that Rhea and I sailed westward on “The Great White Steamship” out of Wilmington, all the while swilling cocktails and watching the porpoises leaping alongside the ship. Once there, though, there wasn’t much to do, unless you’re into scuba diving, which I’m not, and walking around the tiny, hilly town of Avalon, shopping for souvenirs and dining at restaurants.


What was more fun was being a Sea Scout when I was a freshman at Tustin High School. On the weekends, our “Skipper” (Scoutmaster) would drive us down to the Sea Scout Base in Newport Beach, which is adjacent to the Balboa Bay Club, where John Wayne would wave to us as we sailed past his yacht, “The Grey Goose.”


After appropriate training, we were able to sail around in the turning basin in a small layman dinghy. One time, I got smacked on the side of my head by the boom when I forgot to duck… Ouch! “Keelhaul the boatswains mate,” I cried out. You know what? Maybe that’s why I haven’t been quite same ever since.


One time we even got to sleep on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Lexington during a Sea Scout Jamboree on Coronado Island with hundreds of other scouts who had flocked there from all over the Southwest.


The rest of the time, members of our “ship” (Sea Scout patrol) spent weekends scraping barnacles from the hull of a yawl that was donated to us by the father of one of our fellow shipmates, with the promise of sailing it to Catalina when it was seaworthy. Well, that never happened for me. Following two years of scraping and sanding, I became disillusioned and jumped ship.


“Twenty-six miles, so near yet far, I’d swim with just some water-wings and my guitar. I could leave the wings but I’ll need the guitar for romance, romance, romance, romance.”


Keep it sailin’… er, uh, flyin’, Uncle Mott