“Any man who goes to sea claiming to have no fear is either a liar or a damn fool”.
I read this in a book once and it stuck with me, being a sailor. Since then I have never once claimed to be fearless in the face of the ocean, knowing deep down that I am, in fact, afraid of it. The raw power that it holds in its depths could destroy me without even realizing it had done so. The ocean is full of beauty and wonder but it must also be respected. A shark which may be swimming beside you as gently as the Angelfish in the coral below could become a raging torrent of hungry teeth; a small cloud on the horizon may build into a gale that knocks your boat out of the sea and onto the rocks; an out of place wave may be marking a shoal waiting to rip the bottom of your boat off and drop you to the seabed below. These are some of the thoughts running through my head as my father, brothers, and I prepare for a many month long trip down to the Bahamas.
I lost sight of myself for a while in the process of dating a girl and didn’t know what to do with my life. I was jumping from wanting to go with my siblings on this trip to wanting to go to school, to not doing anything but pursue the relationship. About two or three months ago I realized that even though I might be in a relationship with someone who does not share even close to the same career interests as I do that I need to go and purse my own dreams instead of following hers. So I hopped on the TearAway adventure. In about a weeks time (as long things go to plan) we will be turning the key in our diesel engine and guiding our bow towards the Erie Canal, and from there to the Hudson, and finally into the great blue that I consider more home than solid land.
I have crossed the Atlantic ocean once before, and loved it. The long nights at the bow of the vessel Argo, watching the stars trace their paths across the sky. The warm days spent catching fish, taking classes, and everyday work that is necessary to keep the vessel running smoothly. The feeling as you look toward land at the edge of the horizon, marking the end of your long voyage, and knowing you just long for it to continue on and the tranquility to never end. We won’t be having any long passages such as that on this trip.
With just over five thousand nautical miles under my belt I am by far the most experienced sailor on the boat, but this trip will be different as each trip away from port is. It will teach me things I haven’t even thought about yet, it will grow me in ways I can’t even imagine, and we will be guiding the vessel to places not yet seen by my eyes, which means that I am as new to this as my father, and brothers, are really.
As we get the boat ready I am working on making lists of what needs to be put on the boat and where, making safety checklists, conjuring a ditch bag, and making a watch chart. Other tasks will be added to that as we get closer and closer to getting TearAway underway. Our engine is almost operational again and we are all in high, if a bit frantic, spirits.
In some ways I shall miss this island and the security I feel of being able to go to my home whenever I need to. Having friends within a half hour. Knowing people on the streets and the community of it all. I will miss my work at the boat club and teaching what I love. I will miss learning, with my friend Josh, random things like windsurfing. I will miss the familiarity of it all. But at the same time I have been itching since I returned from Argo in December to get away and be out of my comfort zone and to be near the ocean again; to be seeing something new each day and to be learning how to do things with new people. I will miss this, but I will love the serenity of it all.
So as we get ready to say goodbye to the people here we know and love we also prepare to embrace a lifestyle which most of us have not yet experienced and which none of us can predict.
Let’s hope the wind and seas stay at our back.
Photos by: Matt Hardy, Sophia Haram, Katie Combaluzier.