“There is something in the first grey streaks stretching along the eastern horizon, and throwing an indistinct light upon the face of the deep, which combines with the boundlessness and unknown depths of the sea around, and gives of a feeling of loneliness, of dread, and of meloncholy foreboding, which nothing else in nature can. This gradually passees as the light grows brighter, and when the sun comes up the ordinary monotonous sea day begins.” Richard Henry Dana, Two Years Before the Mast (1840)
September 6, 2010
Neah Bay, WA
Until just a few minutes ago the clouds hadn’t lifted more than a few metres off the water. There had been no indication that the sun was even known to this place until the very moment it broke through and bathed a small patch of dripping world in gold. Whatever strength it had is spent now though, as already the grey fades back into place and the clouds exhale slowly down the hills towards the beach.
Earlier, a woman from another sailboat came down the dock with a plate of smoked fish, still warm from the alder smoker in a house along the road. Further along on the beach I can see the red and white of a big carved canoe pulled up on the beach. The life of this place stretches millenia pastwards, but a paddle by the docks earlier revealed that at least its recent history differs little from most other small coastal towns in this part of the world. Only a few of the fishboats still go out, and even some of them are but shells of their once glorious past. Most look like they haven’t left the dock in years.
Less than a hundred metres from where we are anchored sits the New Washington. You can tell from the teal trim that someone once cared to make her seem bright and buoyant against this unerring pallette of greens and greys. Today though, rust coloured streaks mar the white hull and torn blue tarps wave lazily from the cabin top. Surely somebody’s story, but one doubts there is pride in the telling.
Tomorrow we leave for the open water, a move that is at once offhand and intensely calculated; too much or too little, decisions made on the basis of small lines on maps sent through the radio (nothing short of magic). It is only we who know, not the boat, how close by or far away waits the nearest shore.
September 8, 2010
60 miles off the coast of central Washington
There is something expeptional about a day that has only one colour in it: grey. Early this morning the dawn arrived while I watched a freighter pass a couple of miles to our left, it’s green starboard running light playing hide and seek with me amidst the swell. I looked away from the blinking lights and suddenly the world had changed from black to grey. The sea reflects the sky perfectly in places like this where nothing can get in between to ruin the mirror; what the sky does well the sea does better.
Twice today ahead of us I could see small dots of sun being thrown down onto the water, but by the time we were there (or at least close to where there had seemed to be), the sky had closed once again and there was no sign that there had ever been anything but grey.
These first few days at sea are funny; your body feels restless and tired simultaneously – so much motion but so little of it premeditated. Eventually we will not notice the lurch and push of every swell, we will move with anticipation of the sway instead of this awkward leaning around we do now. In spite of my intentions for business I find myself sitting with my knitting in hand just looking out at the waves as they rise and fall over the windward rail. I’ll knit another round tomorrow.