Sailors can fill idle hours with stories about the sea’s mysteries. And
popular literature is full of tales about the Kraken, mermaids, the sirens, and other ancient inhabitants of the deep. It’s easier for the land-based to accept fantastic myths than cope with a deck of foaming green sea threatening to wash you away despite lifelines.
I think this is why fantasy writers fill pages on the mythical; it’s easier than relaying what it’s like having your pins swept from under you and getting drowned in cold spume and salt water. Lose that secure connection with the vessel, and swim in desperation as your sloop sails away under the wind’s command.
Little things will do for you. Items that are routine but were put off through laziness or inattention. Not connecting a safety line, or in my case, being in a hurry to rig a small sloop while trying to impress a young woman. I was distracted and failed to tie a stopper knot on the end of the main sheet. Once on the water, a puff of breeze snapped the line from my hand, the boom went far outboard, and I had no control of the boat. Using the rudder and redistributing weight in the boat, I eventually jibed, grabbed the bitter end of the sheet as it whipped by, and recovered control. Throughout this, I was grateful that I had insisted on wearing life vests.
Sailors often animate the sea and credit it with a native wit, always ready to take advantage of our weaknesses or inattention. It can seem dangerous to discredit this idea while offshore, where the sea is most pervasive. I can assure you that fair and calm one minute and heeled over in heavy squalls just a few minutes later is not abnormal. It’s why the weather report is constantly repeating on the squawk box, and one eye flicks to the little yarn pennants on the mast to sense what the wind is about to do.
There are warnings if you are alert enough to catch them, experienced enough to know how to respond, and interested enough in the sea to continually set yourself to matching it.
I am privileged to be part of a group of old mariners, and every one of them has years of experience beyond mine. Even those pushing their nineties would love to go looking for a ship. But, of course, the retort of their spouses, children, and friends might be you’re too old. To which the response is, “So what?” You’ll never feel so alive, challenged, and rewarded.
Eventually, the conversation drifts to talk of places called the Blue Anchor, the Three Sheets, or Sheerwater Inn. The talk drifts to ports you’ve visited, people you’ve sailed with, and incredible experiences. No one mentions Leviatan or the Kraken. But some Chief Engineer will laugh and holler out, ” the Sirens can call me all they wish; I’ll still show them a good night!”
You can’t be passive around the water. That’s always going to be when it’s most dangerous. So you are respectful but also bold.