What's wrong with me? I don't like to fish. I barely drink on the scale of epic hang overs and I live in the Lower Keys. I'm not gay either so what I'm doing here is not at all clear. But here I am enjoying myself anyway. Wandering around the body of water known as Garrison Bight (where "bight" is a nautical term indicating a "recess" in a coastline) reminds me that sometimes I do miss living on the water.
I used to live on boats but moved ashore propelled by a drive to hold down serious pensionable work. I got tired of not having the energy to go sailing while living in cramped spaces with limited views and what we could see were neighboring boats.So we moved ashore and brought the dog with us.
And then when I am near the water, not on the water these busy days, but near the water I start pining. Maybe it's not pining but maybe it's just remembering. And like all such things one only remembers the good bits. I remember spending one July like Robinson Crusoe anchoring among the deserted islands of the Exuma chain in the Bahamas. We sailed from one deserted anchorage to the next living off our solar panel and our water maker and not needing to run the engine. I try to force myself to remember the days and nights of pounding against winds and waves, of watching the sun go down and the sense of desolation that swept across the ocean as light was extinguished and all we could see was each other, and Emma the Labrador confident in us enough that she curled up on the floor and pretended the boat was a home.
It's been years but I still don't take hot and cold clean running water for granted as it flows from a faucet. I lie in in bed and listen to the wind shaking the palms and rattling the windows and I am grateful I don't have to rush suddenly from the toilet to secure a flailing anchor as my wife never fails to remind me, thinking back to an insecure anchorage in Colombia one squally night.
And yet there is pleasure in absence when one is on the water and away. Noisy neighbors, crowded streets, recalls to duty, they all fall off in your wake and all you see ahead is skinny water and low lying land waiting to be explored.
People tell me riding a motorcycle is dangerous but I think going boating is far worse, at least in terms of loss of dignity at every turn. The two activities aren't always so different but I have fallen off a motorcycle and I have run a boat aground and neither experience lends itself to joy. But I spend more time fussing about navigation when I am underway on a boat than on a motorcycle.
I think the motorcycle allows the rider to feel more in control than a boat does; at least for me. Planning a trip by bike I look forward with pleasure. Planning a trip on a boat and my head spins with trying to figure out every possible permutation on disaster and it's counterpoint. I would spend myself bankrupt at the marine store buying amulets to ward off all different types of death and dismemberment on a boat. On a motorcycle I am happy to take off with not too much and plenty of hope for the best. It's weird but it is true, and I'm not sure why.
To me taking off on a sailboat is like rolling down the launch ramp into the infinite darkness of night, with a gulp of apprehension.
I like the smell of the ocean, the fiddle faddle of the docks where people gather and talk and make exaggerated claims. But the prospect of taking a boat out puts me on my toes, measuring the strength and direction of the wind, computing the force of the tide or the current, preparing a mental back up plan in case of failure. On a motorcycle I make sure the chain is lubricated, the tires have air and I have a credit card. Then off I go full to the brim with anticipation.
But I like the challenge. What can I say? And I miss it sometimes. And I will never learn to fish thank you.