Whenever I leave a harbor, all the small worries that occupy my mind fade away, and the clock that dominates on land ceases to exist. Underway, a time of dreaming begins, a time when hours pass as guests dangle feet over the stern or peer out from the bow. Waves are like flames in a fire for me, always in motion. Watching them, I am instantly removed from my everyday world, and, at that point, I often find myself in a hypnotic trance and stream-of-conscious process. It always evokes dreams of far-off places—even if we’re only making a run to the fuel dock or pump-out station. There’s always that thought: With this wind, we could be in Tortola in a week, the thrill of a fast reach across the trades, the peace of an idyllic harbor, or simply to be at The Crab Claw for dinner in St. Michael’s by sunset.
In the story of creation, the earth, the heavens and the waters were the first things called into being and, most evenings, as a light breeze comes up out of the northeast on the Chesapeake, both sky and air become physically perceptible. As the winds comes up, the motor always goes off and the monotony of its steady throbbing comes to an end. New sounds fill the void—the real sounds of sailing. The rigging creaks and the water begin to whisper past the bow. Siskiwit is a heavy displacement, full-keel vessel, so momentum builds. Like the first slow breath of a woman given up for drowned, slowly the lungs and heart come to life as she picks up speed. Suddenly, new expectations, new hopes for ports far away flood the imagination.
Poor, deprived landlubbers have no idea how rare it is to be rolled up in one’s bunk at three in the morning, the white glow of a clear summer’s moonlight through the midcabin overhead hatch and the peace and safety conveyed in this space. The night for me makes the little world of our sloop seem even smaller. Our running lights send their warnings out in front of us and the small circle of light on our wake from the stern light. It is a strange feeling for whoever is on watch to always know that one’s shipmates are depending on no lapses of attention. On the open sea, danger is seldom present, but in coastal cruising, the psychic stress can be there, especially for watchers who are still developing three-dimension night vision for interpreting running lights.
On the water, I am always stripped of all ambition and material concerns underway and always feel drawn to a higher consciousness. I am constantly filled with images of the past and dreams of the future. The deepest feelings rarely take the form of words.