The number of panorama shots I took on this side of Panama should tell you something about the country’s Pacific coast. Everything is scaled up. Big landscapes, big features, big waves, big fish, big distances. I couldn’t get anything to fit in to what suddenly felt like such a limited viewfinder.

When I think about what the Pacific means, I think as much about land as I do about ocean. I think about a place where things come to a halt. Where the road ends. Part of it is my Atlantic upbringing; I associate the Pacific with the west, and I associate the west with the setting sun. There’s something about the west coast that doesn’t let you escape that end of the day feeling, like everything is always sort of winding down.

It was strange to have those associations on my mind as we were excitedly preparing to set off on the biggest ocean crossing of my life. In a month I would have arrived in the South Pacific and would have realized what would in many ways be the apex of our trip. I spent half my time in our jumping-off spot imagining all of the exotic faraway places we’d be sailing to, all the while cocooned by understated grandeur.

Meanwhile the swell kept pumping, the cows on the hillside made their daily trips to and from the shore, and the shoots sprouting from the knobby fence posts grew unnoticeably day by day. Except for Santa Catalina, where a throng of surfers hung around town waiting on the tide, no one ever seemed to be around. What a strange, distant place to have so much bound-up anticipation.

Thinking back on it now, everything felt so ferociously quiet, the whole coastline a contour of impervious, breathtaking beauty