Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could beChristopher Cross, Sailing
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free
I had a love of old wooden vessels powered by nothing but the wind like most young boys did. Treasure Island was one of the many books I read in grammas collection of old reader’s digest condensed books, on one of my many nights spent sleeping in my dad’s old room.
The idea of something called an ocean was nearly inconceivable to a young child trapped in the middle of the high plains of North America. Much less a story of a deadly life upon the sea. After reading Treasure Island I was young Jim Hawkins evading the pirates in most of the fantasies that I created, if I wasn’t Huck Finn floating his raft on the Mississippi, that is.
I read the full version of Huckleberry Finn when I read it the first time. Mark Twain’s love of travel infected me from the very beginning, and I’ve picked up and read pretty much everything of his that I could get my hands on since then. The beauty of Treasure Island as it was originally written had to wait until I bought a copy for myself back when the Son was hitting reading age and I thought I’d sneak him a copy. But even in its condensed version Treasure Island was enough to inspire a lifelong fascination with ships and the sea.
But when it comes to songs, few songs of the sea can stand up to Christopher Cross’s Sailing. Styx’s Come Sail Away was made and probably heard first, but Sailing expresses the sea-longing that Tolkien ascribes to Legolas and all the Elvish peoples in the Lord of the Rings. Ascribes to them but is really to be felt in the breasts of all people who hear the calling of the sea. Perhaps even in J.R.R. Tolkien himself.
It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance else that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen.Wikiquote – The Silmarillion
Sailing will make me weep with longing for the freedom of the waves.
When I became a young man, with the weight of the responsibility of the years before me, I sought freedom in the music of pirates like Jimmy Buffett. His freewheeling style, refusing to be categorized by anyone as country or rock or pop or whatever, was my inspiration. I dreamed of taking a trip to the coast and liberating the yacht of some wealthy family or other, and with my friend Wade we would become pirates and drug smugglers. It would be a short life, but a merry one, and the cares and responsibilities of modern life could be someone else’s burden to bear.
But even Jimmy Buffett knew that it was too late to make that fantasy a reality.
Yes I am a pirate, born two hundred years too lateA Pirate Looks at Forty
The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder
I’m an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late
When it became clear that I was never going to get to sail on the ocean itself, I settled for sailing on the waters of Twin Buttes reservoir near San Angelo. I bought myself a fourteen foot sliver of fiberglass with a nineteen foot mast and tried my best to drown friends and family while mastering the handing of that finicky little boat of mine. The water was a short ten-minute drive from where we lived in San Angelo, and my experiences there were an almost acceptable substitute for real sailing experience. The canvas can do miracles, just like the song says.
But then times got rougher in San Angelo and we had to move to Austin. In Austin the lakes were much farther away. An hour in snarled traffic wasn’t the carefree ten minute drive that made sailing something I could easily engage in anymore. Boat maintenance became a chore that I soon shirked on, and I ended up selling my beloved sailboat to someone with more time and money. Someone who could afford to keep her.
From the North to the South, Ebudæ into KhartoumEnya – Orinoco Flow
From the deep sea of Clouds to the island of the moon
Carry me on the waves to the lands I’ve never been
Carry me on the waves to the lands I’ve never seen
We can sail, we can sail with the Orinoco Flow
The longing for the sea still calls to me. It called to me today, with a casual reference to my sailboat themed comforter that I gifted to the Daughter ages ago. Calls to me, even though just basic swimming is something I can’t indulge in anymore. I refuse to wear nose and ear plugs to the pool, and when I swim without them I end up with infections that have to be treated with antibiotics. I can only imagine what swimming in the ocean would do to my sinuses.
Just getting on a boat causes vertigo. If I travel and need to take a ferry ride, I have to stay on deck the entire time so that I can see the horizon move and not get nauseous. A cabin cruise would be strictly verboten from a vestibular perspective.
Where it all ends I can’t fathom my friendsSon of a Son of a Sailor
If I knew I might toss out my anchor
What is it about the sea that calls to me? Is it the lulling sound of waves lapping on the sand? Is it that I’m descended from fisher-folk who have always been near the oceans, lived on the oceans? Or is it something more than that?
I thought that they were angels but to my surpriseDennis De Young
They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies
Singing, come sail away come sail away