The Sensation of Yes

I was glad to be alone with the boat. Not having a pregnant wife close by, the obligation I felt to attend her every need was lifted, I was free to go all day as I pleased. There was work to do on Mysterion, repairs to make, supplies to gather, navigation to study for the passage to Key West.

Single-hand-sailing, going alone, was akin to raising children as a single parent: you couldn’t start to do it unless you really wanted to and didn’t know any better; or for some reason, you don’t have a choice.

I had never been a father, and I had never made a single-handed offshore passage. Plenty of times, I had gone alone in sailboats, always within sight of land, mostly in boats small enough to drag out of the water and leave sitting on the beach. In theory, I knew what I was getting into crossing The Gulf of Mexico, same as in theory I knew what marriage and fatherhood entailed. I thought I knew something about how rough it could get.

To sail downwind, the weather I wanted would have come from the north. A northeaster would put the boat on a broad reach, sailing with the elements, the easy way. Sea conditions were bound to be bumpy, and I did not want to ride a storm, just a mild northeaster, and I waited for one to develop.

Mysterion was ready. My wife was safe in the mountains. Betsy had seen a doctor who had confirmed that her pregnancy was thus far normal.

All was in motion for better or worse.

The weather turned and came my way.

I was up for departure at three in the morning, standing on the seawall at Dog River Marina, staring up at the black sky, listening to myself remember the all the ways I could get out of going and be all right explaining why not. I kept asking myself: “Is this what I’m supposed to do?”

There was no voice in my ear either affirming or gainsaying the physical sensation of yes. There were no stars visible, no birds in flight, no signs to read or interpret. The morning sky was unblemished black ink, not a star to guide me. The bodily sensation of yes coming from all around everywhere inside myself was thrilling. It made me want to run for the boat and get underway before anything changed. That delicate certainty gives you everything you need to begin a race, and at the same time slows you down, puts you in a gear where each action is complete in itself. All of you is here and now, you know what to do, and what to do next. There is nothing so thrilling as the perfect intensity of yes.