Dolphin in the Water

The wave action we were caught in made pulling the anchors dicey.  To wait for the wind to calm down would have been the better move.

Going forward to winch up the ground tackle, I began to wonder what I was doing here.  The strain the hull placed on the lines made them dangerous to handle.  A wrong moment could cost you a finger.

I gave Betsy the signal to ease the boat forward.  The motion at the bow, in the tall chop was confused, a hostile hobby horse lurching side to side as well as up and down.  As the anchor lines went slack with the forward progress of the hull.  I gave Betsy the sign for neutral gear and un-cleated one anchor and wrapped the slack line on the head of the winch.  I stepped on the big rubber that started the winch turning, and brought the line tight.  Gave Betsy the sign to come forward.  As she did, I took up the slack on one anchor line and payed out more scope on the other.  One at time, we brought the anchors up.  All the time, working much too close to the steel pylons of the radio beacon.

Soon as the second anchor broke loose we were vulnerable.  If the engine quit, the boat would be ground in the shallows behind us in no time.

Betsy handled the engine controls perfectly.

I scrambled back to the cockpit and took the wheel.

Quickly the radio beacon was behind us.  With the boat under power, cutting the chop, throwing it off as spray, the chaotic motion ceased and a rhythm developed.  I let out the roller furling headsail and sheeted in; the boat heeled over and began sail.  Betsy went below and made us hot chocolate and peanut butter sandwiches.

The channel ran straight as a string for the turn into Port Bolivar, several miles away.  I engaged the auto pilot and let go of the wheel.  Betsy and I settled down in cockpit and sipped hot chocolate.  Now she was beautiful and happy, blonde hair sailing around her face in the wind.  The high collar of the foul weather jacket framed her lips and cheeks, and I wanted to kiss her.

“You did it just right baby doll.”

“I was scared not to,” she patted her belly.

“It was my fault, putting us next to that radio beacon.  We should have gone into the harbor.  I’ll get us there and then we’ll figure it out.  Take a hot shower and get some sleep.”

“I’m ready for that.”

“I know you are.  How’s the baby?”

“He’s doing fine.  It was good the way you sang to us last night,” she said.  That was crazy, the way the boat was.”

“That’s the way they do offshore.  It can get a lot worse, Betsy.”

“I can take it.”

“Sure,” I said.

“I love the way the sails do.”

“Yeah, she’s a pretty boat.”

“Are we going in the ocean today?”

“Not today, baby doll.”

“You haven’t slept much,” she said.  “Are you all right?”

“I’m good, this hot chocolate hits the spot.”

“I love hot chocolate,” said Betsy.

“Me too,” I said.

Coming into Port Bolivar, furling the genoa headsail, for the wind had quit, the gray sky was lifting; I saw a dolphin surface off the starboard bow.

The sun caught the wet skin on the dolphin’s back.  He was going along lazily, crossing in front of us.  I thought how at home he was in the water, perfectly made for existence.  It struck me, that driving a sailboat, I was an air-breathing mammal misplaced.  I had never felt completely suited to any way of life.  Not New York, not the mountains, not as a sailboat captain.

Now I had a wife with a baby on the way.  My impulse was to turn the boat around, head straight back to Clear Lake, and put Mysterion on the market, leave alone what I had to learn to be initiated, and do without whatever would be revealed to me if I subjected myself to the ordeal.  Sell it, go back to the mountains, buy another house somewhere else.  Do whatever I had to do, but find a way to be the like of a dolphin on dry land, because a dolphin in the water is certain of itself.  It belongs there.  It lives how it is.  That was all I wanted for myself, the sum total of what I could teach my children to discover themselves.  If I could do it for myself, I would be a good father.