Sailing (in the Gulf Islands)

The fibreglass bench seat underneath me is poking tiny holes all over my thighs. I shift to the side and lean my chest over the edge, pushing the rope into my forehead. Not a rope really, it’s twisted wire inside a plastic sheath, secured on either side with a clip onto thin metal poles. Cold and smooth, it presses into me but I don’t mind; it grounds me on a vessel that is anything but grounded. I don’t stay there long; turning over onto my belly, I lean over the side and stare at the ocean below. It’s more brown than blue, with tiny bubbles in little groups bobbing on the surface. They look like someone has spit on the surface but I know better now. As a child I thought it was caused by mermaids. As I watch, I can sometimes make out shadows on the water. What are they from? Sea creatures underneath? Or are they shadows from the hull of the boat, becoming visible and invisible as we change direction to the sun?

The beauty of the surface is broken by big, brown, bulbous kelp, bobbing on the surface and daring the boat to try to cut it apart. Someday I will sail in clear water, where you can see all the way to the bottom. It comes to me in dreams but never lasts. I wonder if such water really exists in the ocean. This water sparkles and shines but then has dull spots, where thin lines criss cross through it. I’ve never truly understood the water and how it can look so different yet be right there.

There is no sound. The wind pulls us but toys with the crew by constantly altering its direction. Perfect in execution, the sails are trimmed to remain full of air, maximizing speed. There is no rest for the sailors. As soon as the sails are trimmed, we start approaching an island and must come about to remain with the wind. The sails begin to flap, the boat slows almost to a stop, and the helm is turned as quickly as possible to find the wind again. The fabric is noisy, breaking up the silence as the fabric whips on itself and the metal mast.

The captain is yelling at the crew to switch the sails. I miss the silence. It feels contradictory to have noise without movement, and movement without noise. As we turn into the wind, our speed picks up again, faster and faster as we pull away from land. I breathe in the ocean air, feeling the spray of the water in my face and the salt filling my lungs. I am floating somewhere between the water and the sun. If I close my eyes, I can forget the boat underneath me and just feel the wind pushing, forcing us in its direction. A strange guilt washes over me that we are stealing the wind’s power, in its way, grabbing it without permission. Where might it go if we don’t take it? The guilt passes quickly and I allow myself to feel the silent power, the wonder of it all – the Earth, man’s inventions and innovation, and the power of nature. Feeling overwhelmed with gratitude and admiration, I open my eyes just as a loud and low whirring breaks by concentration.

The silence was broken by a ferry, approaching us on our port side. The engines are loud and cover all of the conversations taking place on board. Where is everyone going? What are they discussing? As the ferry passes, it leaves a wake of rolling waves. Moving in perfect parallel, the waves rock our boat, making my stomach turn. We break them up, but off the other side of the ferry the wake continues unabated. As the waves roll farther and farther, they get lost in the surface, eventually losing their power. Some make it to the nearest island and I can faintly hear the water hitting the rocks. Not violent or crashing, its like the wake just needed to tell the island that it was there.

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Author: stuffytales

I'm a Mum of two fabulous boys and an undetermined number of very mischievous stuffed animals.

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