This week my boat picked up five French sailors hitchhiking from Philly to our next port. Each of them has melted into our rag tag crew effortlessly and endured our nonstop laughter and bits with grace. I am not entirely sure if they think we are insane or charming. I like to assume charming. It gives me a feeling of peace to share our time on the ocean with them because although we can’t communicate as effortlessly as I would like, I think we have a similar world view. We have no money and no real plan but to trust that things will work out.
On our trip here, I stood at the helm and steered the boat. Vincente, one of our more mischievous Frenchmen, was on my watch and started laughing because I had the biggest smile on my face. I couldn’t stop. How on earth is this a thing I get to do? My hair and lips were laced with salt and I swear I even smelled better than I do on land. I saw the moon from the water and a few stars. I listened to the French and English languages mingle together while my crew mates wandered on deck, hazy with sleep. They looked around, trying to figure out where we’ve been since they were last awake, illuminated by the red head lamps we wear at night. I kept thinking how much I love living simply, surrounded by people I care about. Our little boat rolled on the ocean swells and we went about our tasks, senses sharpened every time the boat pitched or someone spoke.
Today our international crew will spend Independence day together in what is possibly the most all-American, bordering on Stepford Wives port in the whole country. Greenport, NY.
Every child is wearing coordinated red white and blue outfits. Every other mom, white pants. The grass is immaculately groomed. Window displays trumpet patriotic, nautically themed ensembles and expensive art made from wood with inspirational sayings for your wedding. All the dogs are golden retrievers or poodles. I met a huge man -poodle named Chad while I was typing this, which is perfect because I am usually creeped out by large poodles but love animals with human names.
I like sailing so much because it offers connections like this. Weird, often wild meetings with people I would never ordinarily cross paths with. Sailors from all over the world, bound by the desire to explore. The goofy shopkeeper who sold me “The Notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci,” young parents who point out the local celebrity to me over coffee. (Joey Pants from the Sopranos? No idea) And sailing finds me in places that I might judge as superficial but who have their own sweetness under the manicured perfection.
Yesterday, I got hauled up on our mast to weave a flag halyard through a tiny block. As I stood up there, 70 some feet above the deck on my perch, I slung my arm around the mast and took in the view. I saw tiny sailboats and the giant Portuguese naval ship Sagres entering the harbor. I saw my crew bustling around, talking me through tasks. My feet fell asleep and my butt started to hurt. But I felt calm- after a few hours up in the air, you feel pretty much in tune with things.
When it was time for me to return to Earth, my crew mate eased me down on a wooden swing. Not that many other experiences offer a chance to give someone your full trust like that. She could easily have made a mistake and dropped me. But it felt right to give her that power. And that’s what sailing feels like to me. Giving everything over. Knowing it will probably be fine but that something could go wrong and you’ll deal with it when the time is right. Until then, though, I feel like you’ve got to enjoy the view.