I leant against the wet rail and stared into the grey. The deck rolled and tossed beneath my feet. Sea legs bending and swaying in time with the ocean. My gaze held, fixed on the approaching squall. It was late afternoon. The night, the storm and I would soon meet. Low cloud rolled in from the west. Rain had begun to fall. The swell built with each burst of wind. I had already lost my way. Now it seemed I would loose the light and the favor of the sea at the same time.
When you have spent your life on the ocean you learn things. Things men whose feet claw solid ground do not need or care to know. The ocean is always trying to tell you something, to teach you something. Men who make their lives on the sea learn to listen. They learn to listen or they die.
Hidden in hope are obstacles that shatter boats and drown men.
Faced with a storm instincts tell a man to sail for shelter. Head for land, find a harbor or cove, hide under a rock even. Lay in wait until the danger has passed. His gut tells him this is the safest course of action. The logic is sound he tells himself. He sees land a haven. He thinks of sheltered bays and calm waters, warm fires, a town and a women. A man who knows the sea knows land is danger. Land is sheer cliffs and powerful waves. Land is hidden reef and sandbars. Hidden in hope are obstacles that shatter boats and drown men. Setting a course to outrun a storm in hope of safe haven is a fool’s errand. If the tempest catches you before you find safety or if the landscape holds no safety at all you have placed yourself in worse danger than a storm on open sea. On open sea you can take down your sails, close the hatches, go below to your bunk and wait. You may be capsized by giant waves, tossed violently around your cabin, but, if your vessel is strong, your chances of survival are high. Eventually the storm will pass. The sea will calm and you can begin again, a safe distance from submerged dangers and threatening coastline. You can raise a sail and plot a course for a new day. These are things the sea tells you. If you listen to her.
A familiar mix of fresh rainwater and salty sea spray soaked my lips.
I resigned myself to wait. Another rough night at sea. I scrambled and grasped my way to the mast and released the tension in the mainsail. The boat rolled and dropped through the swell, a clunky and unpredictable motion. I dropped the mainsail, half rolling – half folding it. Scanning the deck for anything that wasn’t secure I blocked the wheel. A familiar mix of fresh rainwater and salty sea spray soaked my lips. I took one last look at the sky and the sea and went below closing the cabin door behind me.