by William Hay
We call it an adventure. But what is the real meaning of this thing we do.
I am facing life and death in a more proximate way every day as I sail solo on the GIRI. A day does not go by when I realize my own limitations. It seems there are a series of events which arise and I am unable to believe that I will surpass them until they are behind me.
Sailing in a gale, huge waves breaking across the deck, gunnels awash, cockpit full, boat healed unreasonably over then righting again and again. I am in the moment. Every action is defined by the seconds and minutes of the struggle to stay focused. My mind wanders into terror and almost screams at me my situation is hopeless and yet somehow with prayer and constant resistance against fatigue and hopelessness I carry on. The boat pulls through. The minutes become hours and the hours turn into a day and a night. Dawn comes.
The light always brings more hope. It seems that I can’t go on, that if anything were to break or fail I’d be at a total loss. I’m doing everything I can at the outer edge of my reserve and when it seems that it must end, almost quietly it does. The winds slacken, the seas subside. I’ve come through yet another occasion in life. I’m on the other side. I’ve a story to tell. I’ve experienced an adventure. But at the time it didn’t feel like an adventure. At the time it was a nightmare. In the moment it’s a fight against panic. The struggle is mostly internal. Externals are fixed and invariable. But internally there’s this place where I can prevail. I can constantly repeat the name of my saviour, Jesus Christ, rather than hear myself shouting “you’re going to die”, “we’re going to die”, “you’re a fool to be doing this”, “you should never have left port.”
God the Creator I call upon you, I say over and over again. Then I worry that the Moslems say that God has a thousand names. Have I got the right one for the right occasion.
Then I’m searching for the lucky rabbits foot of my childhood. Somewhere in my mind I must find that rabbit’s foot but then I don’t know if it’s the brown one or the white one that will work the magic I need. I’m not calm. I’m stretched to the limit. Yet I’m surfing this roller and riding that wave and heeling in the wind and coming back up when the big one hits almost learning to dance. But it’s not a studio. It’s more like a bull fighting ring.
I’m waltzing with the waves. There are moment’s of serenity then the bulldozer hits and I’m running scared with that big one riding my ass as I wallow down the side and feel all steerage lost and I’m over heeling unreasonably again, and waters coming over the side.
The cockpit’s full and the little dog is swimming and I don’t want to lose him. He’s shivering in his life jacket hating the water while I’m out there in this thing wishing I was home watching tv, doing anything but this lonely unsung hero shit. I’ve got to prove myself a man somehow after all these years. Like no one noticed I had cajones or I forgot.
Why am I out here anyway. I’m trying to reassert the masculine while the feminine of aging inexorably wears me down. I’m seeking testosterone in an estrogen world. I’m resisting killing but risking death. I choose to believe that men don’t become more manly by fighting each other but rather by fighting themselves. I’m in competition with myself and God. The struggle is here in the elemental. I’m saying over and over again as Jesus did, “My God why hast thou forsaken me.”
At death it will feel like that. I’m running towards the grave knowing that it doesn’t matter unless the bullet has my name on it. I’m immortal until fate takes me or I make a mistake. I wonder obsessively about all the things I could have should have would have done when I’m in that wind and wave time.
When it’s all I can do to steer the boat and I’m thinking did I tighten that nut well enough, or should I have checked that knot once again. Things come undone and break that never should have but the forces are so severe. Bits of lostness find there way out of ironic places of hiding to lie on the floor of the cabin. Years ago was their last appearance and now here’s that note, that card, that little thing. It’s been shook out of hiding by the forces. Things bash and bang and it’s like there should be breakage but there’s not. I worry and then remember that Jesus commanded “do not be afraid” so naturally worrying is wicked and I don’t want to be wicked so I feel guilty that I worry and try not to worry and worry about worrying.
This is all going on in these moments mostly late at night when only the nearest waves are visible and they’re too big in the bits of light from the cabin. That’s when the wind is more sound in the rigging than it is something felt. It’s heard. I’m beginning to know wind speed by sound like soldiers know the size of bombs by their incoming sounds.
I’m afraid a lot. I’ve always known myself to be quite cowardly. Most of what I do is counter phobic. I do things though when others wouldn’t. I react and seem to know rationally and sanely what is within my grasp. I’m a survivor and yet I am seen as an adventurer.
I don’t even feel like I’m gentleman enough to be an adventurer. Only gentlemen are true adventurers. I’m too common in that sense. A commoner really. On a very common adventure. Life is common.