Why does the sea mess with me? I don’t mean a comfortable sail on a warm
summer evening I mean the sea… being woken up for a turn at the wheel at 2am, experiencing
the deepest cold one will ever know while regularly soaked through from a salty
spray or feeling the odd motion of the whole world rolling under you. The sea: messed up, unfair non-discriminant,
ever changing, problem causing, gentle rolling blue sea.
This morning I was reaching up into the coat closet gathering my gloves and winter hat for my morning run when the phone rang. It was still early, 5:30, and I dashed to silence this beast before I woke the boys who were still sleeping just down the hall. My friend, Chris, on the other end of a very crackly line blurted out “wake up”. Chris lives in Saipan. He recently moved a large boat down there from Hawaii where I acted as his weather router. He and I have crossed many oceans together over the years and we still lean on each other as shipmates even when 14 hours of time change separates us. Now that I am stuck inland I often find myself acting more as land crew for him if he is headed off at any point. Earlier this week I had encouraged him to slip out for a delivery of 10,000 lbs. of rice to an island about 80 miles South West in a stiff 20 knot Easterly. As the wind filled the speaker on his phone and he rolled offshore of faint cell towers he explained the early call. “prop shaft…separated….how….bolt transmission.” What transmission I ask, as I drop my gloves and grab a laptop. “bor…nor..” What? “Bravo, Oskar, Romeo, Golf….How does shaft stay…” I get it, a Borg-Warner velvet drive. He’ll call me back. Off to Google to find a schematic for a 30-year-old transmission and try to find the stern end drawing to determine what parts hold the shaft to the transmission and attempt to figure out what happened to his. Two calls later, a PDF of a yellowed owners manual and we have it. “Chris, unbolt the flange from the shaft housing. Inside you will find a nut that my guess has backed off. Your spline must be threaded. Re-bed the flange over the spline and attach it with that nut and re assemble…”. Sweet it’s 8:30PM his time and he was about to encounter a longer night than needed. Problem solved. But, I wish I was there.
As the boys rose and started showers I decided to slip out for what run I could pull off, in what was now a dwindling morning. I headed down into town, turned at the river and ran along the water and out to the South Pier. Fishermen were all bundled up with clip-on lights at the top of each pole, as it was still dark. The West wind was blowing in the low teens and whitecaps were just visible in the pale morning. I turned and headed along the beach, the entire time thinking back on my morning drama. The rest of my day would involved a drive to the office where I once again would dash around with students cloaked in my suit jacket not a foul weather coat. This weekend involves a Sustainability Summit where I will present to a small crowd in Indiana wearing likely another suit coat. I’m looking forward to my summit this weekend. I love the opportunity to share ways landscapers and farmers are or can be more sustainable and environmentally friendly. But, I miss the sea.
John F. Kennedy raised a toast to the participants of the Americas Cup held in Newport at the New York Yacht club in September of 1962. A piece of it goes,
“…all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, we are going back from whence we came.” – John F. Kennedy
Weatherly won that cup for America in a fierce battle. The same Weatherly I was blessed to sailed against during last summer’s weekend in Newport. But, one weekend isn’t enough. A three-day limp to Mackinac isn’t enough. I need to get lost. I need to go back from whence I came.
After I finished my run and showered up I headed into work. Still with the morning on my mind I popped on my Pandora allowing it to go to the station I was in the day before. Sheryl Crow screeched through my speakers and in seconds it crushed my heart. In a flash I was taken back to a mild afternoon in July of ’97. We had raced our Farr 37 Honu to Bermuda from Hampton VA. The boys, then 5 & 9, had flown down and met us for the delivery back home. It’s about a 5-6 day passage back to the US. We sat in Bermuda a few extra days waiting for a cold front to pass and then just in its tail we slipped out in the mess that was left, 10’ sharp seas and 25-30 knots of wind. Lani and I still suspect that my folks were speaking to counsel about removing our rights as parents in hopes to stop us. We were too fast. About 24-36 hours from St. George the sea settled down and a comfortable summer high filled in. That sunny, flat afternoon when Lani and Foster were on watch Hud and I slipped into the sail locker in the bow of the boat. Propped up on a large pile of sails with the fore hatch wedged open for a cool breeze we listened to that same Sheryl Crow album through its entirety…twice. Earphones split between us, not a worry in the world and with the boat gently slipping over a crystal blue sea. All afternoon I snuggled with my 5 year old in the bow of that boat. All afternoon, boy I miss the sea.