June 11, 2012

All At Sea

Despite the fact that I live a short drive away from the ocean, and worked a mere two blocks from the ocean for three months when I first moved to LA, I haven't found myself very drawn to the sea.

I'm an avid swimmer, but I've chosen to make the rounds of the various area public pools at Exposition Park, in Culver City, Pasadena and West Hollywood, rather than braving the bracingly cold ocean waters whose waves resist my meager paddle.

As intimidated as I am by open waters, I always find myself inclined to ride their waves in some sort of vessel, be it kayak, canoe, motorboat, raft, ferry, or, in the case of this weekend, sailboat.

On a sailboat such as this, you can motorize just enough to get enough oomph to launch you out of the marina, expelling you from the safety of the slips.

As a civilian passenger, your life is very much in someone else's hands - those of your captain, at the helm...

...and perhaps a couple of strong-armed crew members, who may be nothing more than deck meat, but at the very least a spare set of hands, should something go wrong.

And with all of those ropes and winches, in a delicate balance of sea and air and mechanics and metal and hand, knots slipping and lines running free, something could always go wrong.

And if something does go wrong, there is no escape.

There is only the sail.

In a billowing, twisting frenzy, you either catch the air or you don't.

The boat tips sideways and you sit on the other side to balance the weight. You stay on deck because it's too nauseating down below, even for those not normally wracked by seasickness. You sustain to show your strength. You fixate your eyes on the horizon. You drink beer to distract and forget. You squint at the sun, appearing to smile.

But no matter what happens just short of shipwreck, you cannot jump overboard, not without soaking everything you brought, or leaving everything behind.

So you hope that when you fly the sail, it responds, catches the downwind without a tear; puffs off the wind, engaged, engorged, pulling away from the mast.

And if it doesn't, or when it stops - whatever happens to keep the boat from moving forward - the sail is no longer of any use, and you must retrieve it.

And find some other way to get home.

Or be lost at sea.

Related Reading:
Adventure Is Out There! Wine Country Edition
Elegy for the Flightless Bird

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