"There is nothing... absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as messing, simply messing about in boats... simply messing."
If I had to pick a lifelong philosophy, it wouldn't be Platonism, nor Hedonism, nor Stoicism, nor Epicureanism (though I like elements of all 4,) it would be the Wind-in-the-Willows-ism above. With a boat, no matter how small, one always has waterfront property and an open invitation to stretch your limits.
What is it about boats and being on the water? The coziness of a boat at anchor cannot be duplicated in a house. Maybe it's the precisely wrought wooden dollhouse-scale interior cabinetry. Maybe it's bronze ports, or brass lamps, or some owner-made bits of fancy ropework. Maybe it's the absence of straight lines in the hull's extravagant curves. Or that snug-in-a-cove, let the wind blow feeling as rain taps on the deck. I'm not the first one to try putting words to it.
But one thing stands out: on a boat, the world's your oyster to explore. Whatever sailing you may be doing now, whether gunkholing in Puget Sound or crossing the Pacific, is an extension of the first voyage you ever made and how it affected you. My first voyage was at age eleven, in a tiny yellow rubber raft from Sears. I launched it at low tide on an inlet that spilled deep into a vast salt marsh behind the village of East Sandwich on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Like Magellan I had no chart, but I did have a cheap plastic compass and the knowledge that the tide would turn in six hours to bring me back.
The little raft responded to the tug of an accelerating flood tide, rushing me into the marsh and my first choice: left or right? I paddled left into the slightly wider fork, and looked backwards to memorize the features of this junction for the return. Choice after choice brought me into ever-narrower sloughs that revealed mud cliffs and banks full of surprised crabs, birds, and a welter of other critters whose names I determined to learn. One image I remember with a smile is of a large retreating crab that paused in front of its burrow and looked at me with, I swear, the same expression on the faces of stunned onlookers when the alien in "The Day the Earth Stood Still" walked off the spacecraft announcing, "Klaatu barada nikto."
The smells, wow, the smells of this place, all new to my nose! The air wasn't stinky, it was more like a highly salted, breathable rich collision of exploding life. Breathing in a nourishing drink of this soupy air made me feel less the invader and more like I belonged. I lost track of time and forgot to worry about getting in trouble for likely being late for dinner and not telling my parents where I'd gone. This voyage was a forbidden pleasure.
The tide took me way into that marsh, all the way, in fact, to a highway bridge 5 miles inland. Watching cars rush by from my unseen position and newfound identity of Marsh Person was to feel something flow into me all the way to my DNA, something that no amount of adulthood would ever be able to pry out and destroy. I paddled like mad to reach the bridge so that I could later say I had, but the ebb tide's grip was too strong, so 50 yards shy of it I thought who cares, turning my craft over to the sureness of water flowing back to the sea. I reached the launch site at dusk, nearly stepped in the gaping toothy mouth of a huge beached monkfish, and was only a little late for dinner.
May all your voyages have some magic, maybe even some forbidden pleasures.
Sent via Ham radio
I so remember a time like that also,you hit the hammer on the head, and I'm from the midwest and a memory such as that involves the Platte river. MarcReplyDelete