Tag Archives: ocean

The sea is mine, or Island Dreams

Englishman’s bay, Tobago.

 

So this will be a telling of change, a recounting of what it is to know you are moving and yet  there is a need to sit tight, put those hands under your thighs and stop fidgeting.

This will be a tale of trying to make the most of what time I have left. Look with eyes that know a good bye is imminent. I wish I had had my handy crystal ball, the one that would have predicted all this. Had I known I would only have two years I may have relaxed more, eased myself into Uganda with no fear of being trapped, I would have just breathed in and out and seen it all, fearless.

And now I am returning to the Sea.

I have always, really lived on an island, come to think of it. Ok, I was born at the bottom of the world, in South Africa, and that was no island, despite being the upside down tip of the top, the underbelly, the other end of it all.

But then England, Hong Kong, Japan, England again, New York, (France, exception), Montreal, Winnipeg (big exception), Montreal again, Trinidad, Uganda (exception) and now Bahrain. All islands excepting the exceptions; look closely and those were tricky places to be.

 

In France it was easy to forget, for a time that the sea was so far. I was in a town on the German border and its brittle cold Germanic beauty made me feel I was walking in a fairy tale. The buildings leaned and whispered into one another, the gothic Cathedral was filled with ghosts. I crossed the canal daily and felt charmed each time. I was not there long enough to feel parched for the sea.

In both Winnipeg and Uganda, despite the proximity to those huge lakes, I always had the sensation of being land locked. If I stretched my arms as far as they could go, the tips of my fingers could not sense the sea and I felt un-moored, detached, flattened.

It took a while in The Peg to figure out what it was. Winnipeg is not an easy city; the cold is like nothing anyone not from the Peg has ever experienced. The winter I was pregnant with Trooper we had over 60 days below -20c. It was a record. Then almost overnight the scorching sun came out to play and summer arrived. I went into the hospital to have a baby in cool weather, the radio still talking about the terrible Red River floods, warm in a sweater at 6 am we raced along silent prairie roads to the hospital. 4 days later I came out and it was 35c, the heat bewildering, heavy as if it had come out to welcome little Trooper to the world. So I thought for a long time it was the weather, the impenetrable cold wall that made me feel so misplaced, and in many ways it was. Or maybe it was also the loneliness of a place whose license plates read ‘friendly Manitoba” yet seemed to me to only be friendly to those born and bred there. Slowly I became aware that the land, so flat, stretching those endless miles and those prairie skies so enormous, were flattening me. I longed for the sea and felt as a parched star fish would if it were miles from its beloved sea bed.

Here in Uganda I had the great fortune of climbing up into my car one dark morning in December and driving all the way to the coast. Somehow knowing it is 4 days away has made it worse. I can nearly smell it; I know it is not close enough. Lake Victoria is green abuzz with lake flies, heavy with Bilharzias. It is no replacement for the salty licks of the ocean.

The sea is mine.

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The day we fell in the ocean.

I don’t think I have ever written about that day we all fell in the ocean. 

 

It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, the wind, a sailors dream. Imagine the scene. 4 adults, no kids. They had been shoved into a house together with a couple of babysitters and a lot of glitter glue. We had a boat, a 25 foot sail boat, small but sweet, and free. We had an ocean, a clear sky, a cute boat and barely anyone who knew how to sail. Cassandra and I saw the opportunity a mile away. And we saw the look on the husbands faces as we lugged on board champagne, paper cups, gourmet sandwiches, a camera and smiles ready for fun. 

“What do you think this is?” one of the husbands said as his hands grew raw from pulling ropes and fixing up the sail.

 

We just sat there and tried to look pretty as maidens as hunky men got the vessel sea worthy. Once aboard things were looking great. The sails flapped in the wind, the sea tilted ever so thrillingly towards us, the windswept hair looked a mess but felt great. Eventually sandwiches were eaten, champagne was sipped and life was good. This was my very first time on a sailboat that didn’t have a captain and I didn’t have a clue how to sail. I still don’t. D, our good friend and sometime sailor seemed to have a sort of clue, which helped us head in the right direction. Us girls sat on the rim of the boat, feet trailing in the sea and laughed, happily. I clicked away, taking pictures. When we saw a huge fish leap up from the great depths I quickly pulled my feet out of the water, imagining that whatever was chasing that fish was pretty big. I did not want my toes to become bait. Oh, how silly I was, imagining that was the worst that could happen.

 

D thought he would be nice, helpful and congenial and handed over the reigns of the steerage to my lucky husband who had never touched a sail boat, let alone steered one before. Somehow we tacked, which was meant to mean that we all hurl ourselves to the other side, carefully avoiding the boom. I think, in fact, that  was the one thing we had actually practiced, responding mighty fast to the word, TACK.

 

Well, this time there was no word, just a strange sensation of suddenly going from very dry and happy to very wet and worried. It was so rapid a transformation that I was amazed that my sunglasses remained on my head and my camera in my hand.

 

We realized, very quickly that all four of us were in the water, that we had no life jackets (who needs a life jacket when you have champagne?) and that the boat was slowly but surely drifting away from us.

 

Well, I peed immediately. I needed to go anyway and the shock just helped it along. Then I looked around and noticed that we were far from shore, maybe a mile, looked really far, but strangely way too close to the Alcoa aluminum bauxite plant. So my choice seemed clear.  Cancer or sharks. Luckily, while I was imagining the worst of my two deaths, D was swimming like mad towards the renegade boat. D is a fast swimmer and an oil man. He is a great husband, father and hero as you will soon find out, but more than any of that, D is a surfer. I think he only had to imagine some giant surfboard getting away from him and he was there. It took him 4 times to bring the boat around. He pulled one sail down, to make it slow down ( I had no idea) and kept swinging the boat round to pick us up. It was hard and windy and tricky, but he finally did it. One by one we climbed aboard.

“Cool, let’s do that again!” Said D. 

“No. let’s not.” Said Cassandra.

“Oh. Fuck. My camera.” Said I

“Any champagne left in that bottle?” Said husband.

 

For the record, salt water damages the inside of lovely little canon cameras. 

 

I bought my brand new camera with Mastercard.

 

Price of the boat $0. Price of the camera. $600. Price of a day on a boat with good friends? Priceless.

 

 


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Filed under Family Stuff, Might be funny, Sisterhood, Trinidad & Tobago