Friday, January 30, 2009
Love Of The Sea Endures
Reading time has been at a premium this week; but, I look forward to some time over the weekend. The principal character in the book I'm currently reading is, interestingly, a ship...a tall masted sailing ship of dubious character. Books about sailing and the sea always make me a little dreamy. The date is lost to me now, but there was an exact moment in my life when I knew I would always want to live near the sea. Many years ago, when I was a young bride, my husband and I lived on the windward side of Oahu. We bought a sailboat - a 16 foot Hobie cat - and christened her the Arabesque. She had red hulls and striped sails of yellow and white. With lessons and experience we eventually became fairly adept sailors (especially my husband, who raced her in regattas), but we began as clumsy, and probably dangerous, landlubbers - venturing out in squally weather, loosing our bearings, and beaching the boat on the rocky parts of the shore. In time we got the hang of it. The best days I can remember are out on the ocean with the hulls of the Arabesque slapping at the water, her sails puffed and trimmed. My husband loved to ride the boat up onto one hull, which always terrified me - never a strong swimmer. One very gusty morning we were out on Kanehoe Bay a good distance from shore. My husband worked the mainsheet and tiller as we sat side by side on the trampoline, the wind to our backs, leaning further and further outboard as the boat strained to heel over with the wind. True to her name, the Arabesque suddenly lifted her upwind-sided hull out of the water; I lost my balance and went overboard. (Although he denied it, I always believed this was a "husband prank".) Seconds later, from my dog-paddling vantage point, I saw the boat come back down onto both hulls. It turned into the wind, and calmly bobbed up and down, sails gently luffing, still at last. I don't know how far I was from the craft; it seemed like miles. In reality, it was probably only 40 feet or so. I found it odd that my husband did not jump over board to save me, and the thought crossed my mind that he was simply going to let me wear myself out, and then sink. I was calling out "help;" he was shouting something back at me through his cupped hands. I could not understand what he was saying, but I knew it had two syllables. Was he saying, "Good-bye," "good luck," "so long?" Who knew? In one last attempt to save myself, I kicked my legs behind me and attempted a breast stroke. Within a few yards, I finally realized my husband was shouting - and laughing - "Stand up!" The water was only deep enough to come to just below my shoulders. In those really green sailing days, I didn't know there were shelves and a sand bar that extended far from shore, and the deepness of the ocean was only an illusion at that point. The eye sees the land far in the distance, and it tricks the mind to believe otherwise. I slogged my way back to the boat on foot in wet-felty sand - a little humiliated at my panic, with revenge on my mind. The closer I got to the Arabesque, the hotter my anger gurgled. By the time I was five feet away I was prepared to wage war. I stopped and looked up at my husband. He was sitting on the trampoline with his left leg curled underneath him and his right foot resting on one red hull. His left hand held the slackened mainsheet, the right one was extended out towards me. I will always remember how he looked: his smile showed his straight white teeth, made whiter still by the warm tan he was always able to maintain. And all that blue...his blue-blue eyes, and the blue sky, and the blue-green sea, all blended together. He was smiling down at me - a smile that radiated all the beauty and promise of his youth, and of mine. It was a smile one could hang a lifetime on. Not a smile that said, "The joke is on you." Rather, it spoke, "I'd rather go sailing with you, than anyone else in the world." I reached up for his hand, he reached down for mine. "Welcome aboard, sailor," he said softly. That was the day I fell in love with the sea.