Fire on the Water
The swoosh of water passing over wooden planks sanded as smooth as a baby’s bottom and painted glossy black, the slap of a wave cresting and jumping aboard our boat and then gurgling down the decks on our first night’s sail of the season hypnotizes me into a state of confident, comfortable control of our situation.
We are gallivanting up and down the rising swells like kids running up the hill with sleds towed behind and then riding down at quite imaginable speeds of light. The windswept ocean spills green water on the boat; we reach our hands out in time to feel the cold softness before it rejoins the Atlantic.
I’m reminded of the saying: Salt is the cure for everything, find it in: tears, sweat and saltwater.
I take the helm to steer for the next two hours for my watch while my husband goes below decks into the cabin and sleeps. This is one of my favorite things to do in the whole wide world, sailing alone at night.
A gust of wind presses against her sails, I have a rush of adrenaline, a quickening heartbeat when the boat heels over and I catch a glimpse of the dazzling strip of “fire on the water” leading to a full moon showing itself like a ripe pumpkin at the horizon. The sun’s light must mingle with the low clouds beyond my sight in the western horizon and gives color to the moon.
The moon, the planets, my own little earth, well, quite honestly, the whole universe enthralls me. When I am out on the vast open ocean, the immenseness of the surrounding sky leads me to wonder how it all works. Over the years there have been so many questions, and so many answers. Some, like in the old days in Scotland when women with small breasts would go outside when the full moon shone and expose their bosoms in hopes for growth and nourishment, yes, some seem crazy. But the moon does not emit its own light, it merely reflects the light of the sun and the sun makes all things grow, maybe those girls were on to something.
My navigational instrument beeps a warning; I have veered off-course. My heading should have been due south but I’ve gone a bit easterly. The full moon has risen; on average the moon rises about fifty minutes later each day, which is the amount that tide times lag the previous day on average. I know the tide has turned and will now begin pushing against the boat’s side. Tonight, the tidal pull will be strong with the full moon and also will be affected by a low-pressure system moving up the coast from the southern latitudes.
I feel, in the waters of my own body, the pull of the moon as it travels round the earth in the opposite direction we are. I gaze over at the moon in the eastern sky, apparently moving westward and catch myself again, thinking this cannot be true that it moves, in orbit, opposite from west to east. I try to convince myself with what I see, but I have knowledge, and until I forget that knowledge and blissfully watch the moon as I did when I was a child and believed it traveled from east to west, yes, until I forget that is not true, I will know the moon in fact is orbiting in the opposite direction.
The stars glisten, I take note that there may be cirrus clouds passing in front of the stars and the icy particles make the stars appear to shimmer like in fairy tales, the low-pressure must be headed our way.
There are so many factors and much figuring to how our world works; it can get so dizzyingly confusing. I sense the boat lose momentum, the tide is strong. The extremes of tidal height and speed are called “spring tides”. They occur shortly after the sun and the moon’s gravitational influences are aligned, which happens when the moon and sun are either in line, a new moon, or opposite, a full moon. These influences cause me to change my boat’s course to compensate for the power of the pull.
My bones ache a little; does the moon affect the very marrow of them? Must I be crazy thinking such a thing?
The boat’s clock rings its bell; my watch is over, now I get to dream.
Quick to sleep…a white whale, the color of the moon, comes and calls for me, I climb on deck, the wind is calm, not a soul around. The whale asks for me to join her, I dive in the waters and she gently coddles me at her snout and dashes to the bottom of the ocean, and then abruptly turns upward hurrying to the surface. Beside my boat she breeches high and drops me on my boats decks…I awake. My husband has fallen asleep at the helm. I wake him, I am soaking wet as I tell him my dream.