MY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SEA BEGINS WITH BOATS, ONE PARTICULAR BOAT, NAMED ‘LEGEND’. LEGENDARY FOR TEMPER TANTRUMS, MY BOAT CAN STILL GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING ALL IS FORGIVEN IN THOSE MOMENTS WHEN SHE ALLOWS ME TO BECOME ONE WITH THE SEA
I could not be farther from typical fan of the sea. Sure, I love the sea above all - but I also hate it. Both strong emotions, both present - depending on my current state of mind. Allow me to elaborate, I practically learned how to swim before I learned how to walk. Born and raised in a house just feet from the sea, it always has been my playground, an essential part of my life. Still, my first couple of sailing trips with my father - who had to settle for business school after my grandmother, his mother, decided he would not grow up to be a sea captain, and never really recovered from that blow of fate - were anything but a smooth ride. The very first time we set out at sea I vomitted overboard, the second time round my father was brave enough to allow me to steer a little and I almost got us shipwrecked, I could tell my dad was a bit disappointed his son wasn't born with sea legs, or even really interested in sailing. His dream was to sail around the Adriatic, he kept buying and selling boats... He never got his dream come true. Back then neither of us could imagine that one day sea would be daily bread and butter, that I would sail all the way from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean. If all this sailing talk got you believeing I became a sailor - you're wrong. Big ships, be it commercial or transport, have never been and still aren't my pair of sleeves.
Despite my not so shiny start, I really enjoyed being at sea, close to it - and for something like that you need a much smaller boat. I worked as skipper for a long time, on boats of all sizes from small ones to giant 40-meter yachts, but always prefered the small ones. A big yacht with all her baggae is much more like a floating villa moving from one place to another - a small boat takes you next to the water, lets you hear it and smell it. You can hear the water, hear the wind, become one with the tides. That's where I'm home. That's my neighborhood, the place I feel is close to my heart. After several days of that friendship I'm close to nirvana, my mind is perfectly calm without trips to India or meditation. Easy mornings with no sounds, not even radio, no television, no newspapers, no news at all - just nature, sea and me.
Oh yes, and Legend. My boat, that makes me both love and hate the sea, is named Legend. She is a lady 110 years old, 12 m long and built from wood - powered by an old Perkins engine I had to sworn and bribe a million times - please, help me just this one time and I'll buy you whatever you want - and with a character to match her appearance. I've worked on that engine countless hours, patched and cleaned it, replaced parts and spent hours in the hot engine room on rough seas.
My fingers know every line on Legend's body, every sound she makes, and no trouble comes as surprise any more. I can tell when the situation is getting serious and when my Legend is just showing me how she feels about a villain like me making an old lady like herself get out there at sea.
Before every new season my boat needs sprucing up, repairs and band aids - and a couple of prayers to St. Nicholas, patron saint of sailors. We're like an old married couple, Legend and me - there have been fights and quarrels, there have been threats, but we got out of it all despite my harsh words and Legend's heavy temper. The moments of calm, when the sea loved us both, were the moments worth forgiving everything else for, the moments that made us fall in love with each other all over again.
The sea has good sides and bad sides - just like Legend; that's why I love them both. The moments I hate are those when both the sea and Legend are against me; when they team up and test my patience, my skill and my mind. Sleepless stormy nights, broken engines, strenght leaving my body through every pore; those are the challenges. The reward is always somewhere there - the storm subsides, I get my say, I win one more time and the sun is bright again, the port just around the corner. Those moments make a piece of bread and a spoon of olive oil taste better than fancy Viennese cakes, a glass of wine - and the sleep it brings, deeper than the deep blue Adriatic - is a gift from heavens just like the silence it brings. When I open my eyes, the starry sky reflected on the surface of the sea, late night swimming when my body is surrounded by plankton makes me lighter than light; makes me feel like a comet floating around trillions of shiny dots that sparkle around me and Legend. Those moments give answers to all my questions and let me in on the secrets of the univers, let me become one with it all. The feeling is a lot like love - that calm, that confidence and bliss, the feeling you find in the silence of high mountains. We love the things that let us come closer to who we really are - and the sea is ideal for that voyage. Around here we say: take a person to the sea and see what they're made of. When all the frills of our everday lives come off, on the calm - or even better, rough water - you'll see what is really inside you. Sometimes I finds something I like, sometimes not. I can be nice and not so nice, just like the sea. It's not the sea and not the storm, not even Legend that make me who I am, but they teach me how to be a better person. As years went by I learned to embrace life as it is - tiny and shiny plankton that sparkles for a second in all its beauty and glory.