I generally work to avoid ascribing motives, good or bad, to other people for a simple reason. I’m rarely certain of my own motives … so how could I know anyone else’s motives?
This question has arisen because I’m about to put to sea again. I’m first mate on another boat delivery, this time from San Francisco to Portland. Well, actually, Alameda Island in San Francisco Bay to Portland. Here’s the noble craft in question, a 38′ catamaran.
Now, up until my last birthday, I was in what I described as my “middle youth”. However, my most recent birthday was my 70th, so at present, I’m into what I call my “late youth” … and why is a man in his late youth putting to sea again?
As usual, it’s a mix of reasons. First and foremost, the ocean truly doesn’t care. It doesn’t care if I can write well. It is indifferent as to my age. My wealth (or more exactly the lack thereof) is of no interest to the ocean. Talk about equal opportunity—pauper or President, sinner or saint, if you put a foot wrong on the ocean you will get wet …
And I like that fact a lot. It cuts through all the bull and gets right down to what is really important, which are not my fantasies or my education or my ideas or how well I can tell a tale, but whether I can handle the harsh oceanic reality.
Next, the ocean is an eternal surprise, with no two days being the same. I’m always happiest when I don’t know which bush hides the rabbit …
Next, keeping a boat afloat and working calls on a host of skills. Since I came aboard this morning, I’ve replaced some drain hoses, fixed a couple of bilge pumps, trouble-shot the shower drain system, tested the anchor windlass relay (still not working), and a number of other tasks. And all of these are what I call “Go-No Go” situations—either I can fix it and get it working, or I can’t. It’s good to take the measure of my skills and test my abilities to the limit.
Finally, however, I suspect that I go to sea for a funny reason—fear. And what am I afraid of? Well, bizarrely, I’m afraid of poetry—in particular, the following poem, which invariably strikes me with dread:
So We'll Go No More a Roving By George Gordon, Lord Byron So, we'll go no more a roving So late into the night, Though the heart be still as loving, And the moon be still as bright. For the sword outwears its sheath, And the soul wears out the breast, And the heart must pause to breathe, And love itself have rest. Though the night was made for loving, And the day returns too soon, Yet we'll go no more a roving By the light of the moon.
I know that someday I’ll be in that place … but good heavens, not this soon. And to prove it … well … I’m going roving by the light of the moon.
We were due to leave today, but it’s a boat trip, they never start on time, so we’re still in Alameda. We’ll be firing up early tomorrow morning. Wish me luck, dear friends, the moon is coming towards full outside the porthole as I write this, further sea stories to follow …
Best to all,