Within the crusing yacht’s cramped dwelling space, almost 20 sticky notes reminded Jin Woo Nam and his crew of the duties forward — buffing and waxing, making use of a particular paint to forestall barnacles from sticking, fixing a leaky water heater.
Nam, 63, didn’t appear pressured. On today in early February, he smiled as he strode amongst a dizzying array of ropes and sails to restore the antennas for the boat’s monitoring system.
Since he purchased the Ignatella in 2011, promoting his residence to purchase the used 37-foot craft, Nam has dreamed of crusing to Korea, his birthplace.
He had achieved a modest prosperity because the proprietor of a restaurant and karaoke bar, amongst different companies. However to him, the American dream felt hole. There needed to be extra to it than that.
And so, he was making ready for a journey throughout the Pacific, about 75 days at sea from Marina del Rey to Honolulu to Incheon, retracing in reverse the journey of the primary Korean immigrants 120 years in the past.
After many years within the U.S., Nam wanted to journey residence — not by boarding a airplane however the onerous manner, like a salmon swimming upstream.
“We solely know how you can earn cash, not how you can spend it. We get sick and die. That feels so futile,” Nam mentioned. “It’s so silly. We labored so onerous, so we’ve the proper to play onerous and revel in our lives.”
On Jan. 13, 1903, 102 Koreans — 56 males, 21 girls and 25 kids — aboard the RMS Gaelic landed in Hawaii, a U.S. territory on the time.
They had been promised a gentle local weather, free education and work at $15 a month, with free lodging and medical care.
“There was a promise of a dream,” mentioned UC Riverside professor Edward Taehan Chang.
As a substitute, they had been scattered to sugar plantations, compelled to do backbreaking work for a minimum of three years to repay their money owed. Supervisors on horseback whipped them in the event that they a lot as paused to stretch, Chang mentioned.
Nam, too, got here to the U.S. in the hunt for a greater life. In 1979, after graduating from highschool in Korea, he settled in Orange County, portray buildings and cleansing carpets. He finally opened the cafe in Backyard Grove and the karaoke bar in Hawaiian Gardens.
He purchased a home in Placentia and labored at an funding brokerage. However attaining these outward markers of success wore him down. He had as soon as dreamed of being a painter or an architect.
In his late 30s, he enrolled on the Laguna Faculty of Artwork and Design, finding out portray.
After getting his diploma, he made a profession shift, educating portray and working a gallery.
As a baby within the seaside city of Busan, Nam fell in love with the ocean. In California, he took up fishing. Attempting to economize for his journeys, he stumbled into crafting wood kayaks. That led to crusing.
He offered his home for about $300,000 and purchased a crusing yacht for $90,000, naming it the Ignatella — a mix of his Catholic identify, Ignacio, and his spouse’s identify, Stella — and portray it Atlantic blue.
“I had talked about shopping for the yacht for years,” Nam mentioned. “So despite the fact that my spouse didn’t prefer it very a lot, she understood the place I used to be coming from.”
Nam discovered how you can tie knots and dock his boat in sturdy winds, how you can alter the sail relying on the wind and the waves.
Crusing yachts are sluggish, with a most pace of lower than 10 miles an hour. They’ll’t energy straight by way of headwinds, as an alternative zigging and zagging throughout the water. However that’s how Nam, who now works as knowledgeable crusing captain, desires to reside his life.
“Once we’re driving on a highway, there are specific guidelines. You must maintain to your lane, and also you face bother for those who veer exterior,” Nam mentioned. “There are specific lanes within the ocean, however once you’re crusing, you’re making your individual highway … There’s that freedom.”
If all the things goes proper, Nam and his crew ought to make landfall in South Korea in mid-to-late Might. Typhoons are among the many many unknowns that would derail the voyage.
Donald Kang was the primary Korean American to sail solo throughout the Pacific. He completed the feat in 1990 whereas a pupil at UCLA.
“5 hours into my sail out of San Pedro, I had my first impression of the Pacific Ocean: It’s loopy,” Kang wrote in his ebook, “Sure, I’m Loopy for the Ocean.”
The primary day, Kang wrote, he vomited out his guts as he drifted in fierce winds. He needed to take shelter on Catalina Island.
Weeks into his journey, his water tank and fuel vary broke, forcing him to depend on rainwater. He dodged all the things from typhoons to container ships.
“You must plan all the things out,” mentioned Kang, who not too long ago met with Nam and his crew of three different sailors. “You must at all times be aware of issues that may break, issues that may go mistaken.”
Nam’s spouse, Stella Kim, typically wonders why she greenlit the journey.
“I don’t know if it’s good that I gave him ‘permission,’” Kim mentioned with amusing. “However I don’t wish to have scary ideas. I depart all of it as much as God … I’m planning a 100-day prayer.”
Nam has racked up 1000’s of hours on the open water, together with a solo journey up the Pacific coast to Seattle.
Two of Nam’s crew members are Korean American — Joseph Chang is an Iraq Warfare veteran and Do Yoo a seasoned sailor.
The third, Sang Hee Park, flew in from Korea with no crusing expertise, connecting with Nam by way of a pal of a pal.
Park, 54, has been staying on the Ignatella for a month whereas studying the fundamentals of crusing from Nam.
As he prepares to retire from the actual property trade, Park is making an attempt to determine what to do subsequent.
“It’s an unforgettable expertise,” he mentioned. “I hope the following two, three months will refresh my life.”
Nam has spent $50,000 fixing up the Ignatella and needs he had tens of 1000’s extra for brand spanking new electrical wiring, water pumps, a shelter in opposition to harsh climate and plenty of different enhancements. He nonetheless must discover a crew member to exchange Chang on the Hawaii-to-Korea leg.
Nam, who has led group crusing teams and taught crusing to many, hopes his journey can promote the pursuit to Korean Individuals.
His bold voyage has struck a chord amongst Korean immigrants who didn’t dream huge for themselves as they labored lengthy hours to make it within the U.S.
The Korea Instances, which is sponsoring Nam’s journey, refused to reveal a greenback quantity whereas noting it has revealed a number of tales selling the journey. The Korean consulate in Los Angeles has gifted a South Korean flag to show atop the boat. Others have donated meals and provides, together with GoPro cameras.
At a dock occasion final month, Nam’s supporters ate fish desserts and posed for group images.
“I’ve lived within the U.S. for 40 years, and I’ve solely regarded ahead,” mentioned Martin Kwak, a 62-year-old retiree in Koreatown who has led a fundraising effort for Nam’s journey — about $15,000, together with, nearly $5,000 from a GoFundMe. “It’s nice to see somebody our age who’s doing one thing and dwelling life in the best way they need.”
Wha Younger Chang, a 63-year-old canine coach and retired Korean-language TV anchor, mentioned he instructed Nam, a longtime pal, to not go.
Why do that when you could possibly die? Chang requested.
Chang was struck by Nam’s reply: “As folks age, their goals fade. However I need my dream to return true.”
As he made his ultimate preparations, Nam was already serious about his subsequent sea voyage — Korea to L.A., by way of Alaska.
On Saturday, Nam and his crew displayed a South Korean flag, then pulled on the ropes and raised the sail. A model of the American flag, utilized by licensed yachts, waved on the stern as they headed for the horizon.