Unmoored

There has been a lot of boat imagery in my life lately.

A few days ago, there were actual boats, at Community Boating, a sailing school on the Charles River in Boston.

I went to pay homage to my father. He was a sailor and a teacher at Community Boating and he died a year ago. We sat on his memorial bench and watched students try to tack across the Charles, almost capsizing in the blustery wind.

A few weeks ago, there was a day-long boat ride surveying dolphins (see the post Birthday Dolphins), conversations about going on boats with friends, and the thoughts of learning how to be a boat captain through CareFree Boating in Savannah.

I think I’m in the process of developing a new relationship with boats. I feel excited by boats these days.

Not the sailboats of my childhood. Those were the domain of my captain father. He believed that the crew should be seen and not heard when sailing. “PSSSUT PSSSUT” He’d make that funny noise with his tongue at the front of his mouth, lips pursed, when I was being too loud. Too exuberant. Combined with an annoyed shake of his head, it was very quelling.

Not the J24s of my brief time crewing for sailboat races in Annapolis, MD back in the 90’s. That was exciting, trimming the jib, packing and unpacking the spinnaker, watching the huge red sail billow out into the wind. Feeling the boat heel over as it gained speed. Once in a race, I was on the high side, trimming the jib. Then, in an instant, I was on the low side, and I saw clear green water swirling around my knees. What!? As soon as I thought ‘Uh oh, this is not good!’ it was over. I was on the high side again, dripping, startled, but still in the boat. And the boat was rounding the mark.

No, the boats that are calling me are the little motor boats that can slip into the rivers and marshes, taking me into the ribbony, dreamy, steamy salty world of the salt marsh.

I want to learn how to handle them and take them out. Under my own hand. Going where I want. When I want. I want to see dolphins and herons and maybe nothing at all except green and gold and buttery sunlight and waving grass.

I’m hoping the Carefree Boating Club will offer me a new way to be with boats. I might be able to build competency and develop a sense of agency with boats and become my own captain.

But first. I have to become unmoored.

Unmoored from my past training and assumptions and limitations. Unmoored from old lessons about who is in charge. Who gets to speak. Who gets to decide. Who is worthy of deciding.

I wrote the first half of this post a few months ago, in September. Now it’s January, and I’m coming back to finish what I had put aside and forgotten.

Today, I spent some time in another boat- my kayak.

I paddled out — against the flooding tide–to the mouth of Delegal Creek. The wind died, and the 3 pm sunlight glittered across the flat calm of the water’s surface. I could hear the swells from Ossabaw Sound rolling into the muddy banks of the marsh. I was surprised by how much it sounded like surf pounding onto a beach.

I looked out into Ossabaw Sound, watching for dolphin fins to break the surface. I faced south, faced towards the wide expanse of the sound, and let the wind and the flooding tide carry me backwards, northwards. The wind and tide carried me back up into the creek, back towards the place I started. I didn’t paddle. I just sat and let myself be pulled home.

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