Nothing prepared me for the bombshells when the book reached the market. The reviews were lukewarm to outright hostile. Cinnabar was an embarrassing bomb in spite of my best intentions. Shortly after enduring the difficult return from alcoholism rehabilitation, I was coping with a short-lived career as a thriller author. I stayed off the booze, but my depression was just like my pre-Edgehill days. I began smoking again. I began getting sick after meals again. I began experiencing the blank spots again. And the voices started crying out again: "You're stupid! You're bad! You're very bad!"
Deeply despondent, I started a new ritual, hiding in a remote corner of Grand Central Station at the beginning of my daily round-trip, watching the wriggling flood of salmonlike commuters, trying to make sense of my life. No, I'm not bad, I screamed silently, again and again. There's got to be a purpose, but what the hell is it? I breathed hard at first, and then more quietly and easily; my eyes fluttered in a dreamy state and my mind floated above the bustle and noise. I felt like a French medieval monk, properly punished for his sins, awaiting a sign of divine guidance. I wanted to be free of all these painful memories; I wanted release; I wanted rebirth. "Rebirth"? Ah, thought the monk, renaissance!
Renaissance was the very name I had selected for the thirty-eight-foot Sabre sloop that I purchased in 1989 to symbolize hopes for a new beginning. What about a long ocean voyage to let my soul rebuild itself? Together with a wonderful sailing friend, I mapped out an itinerary. We would sail the boat together to Newfoundland, spend some time exploring its southern coast, and I would bring it back to western Long Island Sound single-handed, a total trip of over two thousand miles. For me, it seemed the perfect project, fulfilling a lifetime dream at the time of nightmarish life changes. And so we threw ourselves into two months of preparations for a blue-water trip, marking our progress with endless checklists revised every few days.
As we set off at daybreak, Renaissance felt heavy with the couple of tons of additional weight, but she moved smoothly into the bright morning sun. Her blue hull cut gently into the tranquil waters of Long Island Sound; her shapely bow pointed due east toward the open Atlantic with the Canadian maritime provinces hundreds of miles over the horizon. We chatted for a bit and then settled into our separate thoughts, he looking ahead where we were going and I looking back where we had been. I huddled against the early-morning chill, zipped my fleece pullover up the neck, and tried to shake off the fatigue of many sleep-shortened nights in the final week of preparation. I was genuinely excited about the voyage and delighted that Dr. Smith had endorsed the trip in spite of initial worries about a hiatus from the ongoing alcohol rehabilitation program. But, as I watched my eight-ton boat leave a rolling blue-black stern wake, a cold cloud enveloped me, tempering the joyful departure with memories I desperately wanted to suppress.