Unlike the anticipated birth of newborn joy, the sailboat’s dreaded delivery date arrived. Gestation was almost two years while the 15-year-old boat was being refit with a new design in the boatyard. Time, however, was not all that was needed to welcome this she-yacht into my life. I sensed an unresolved something churning in the dark, deep waters of my soul.
Everything the boat is, I am not: huge, commanding, fast, intrepid, sleek and striking, and extravagantly decked out for adventure. The boat’s all-that exacerbated all that I am not…but would be required to become. Her imposing presence obligates, demands, and expects much of me…too much. The more she commands sea-worthy superiority, the more I notice my she-worthless inadequacies.
Her massive sails harness the winds and her powerful hull heels. Gravity pulls me down into the curvature of her cushioned cockpit. I don’t resist. My silhouette is absorbed into the shadow of her sails. And I tuck into protective comfort while my captain husband actively engages…with her.
Elusive voices drift past like an occasional gull gliding by overhead. “He prefers her to you…you don’t have what it takes.” I pull my hood up over my head against the freshening wind, and secure its cords under my chin into a proper bowknot.
I don’t like the cold wind. I don’t like the swells heaving the boat. I don’t like being in the cold, sunless shade of her sails. And I don’t like the accusing voices, “You are so dull. The ocean is passing you by while you hunker down in your warm, cozy, protected cushion of comfort.”
The depth meter gauge blinked showing that the waters were so deep they could not be measured. I don’t like the uncertainties of deep waters. And I don’t like my response to this other female. Uncertainty welled up; I wondered whether the female I resented was the she-yacht…or me.
Bracing my leg muscles against the pole of the cockpit table, engaging my core, and straightening my posture, I turn my head forward with the wind full into my face. The force of the wind catches one of the accusing voices and whisks it off and into the wake behind us. I stretch upwards, grab a table grip and pull up, driving my body against gravity, against the weight of the boat and onto the high side of the cockpit…the side in the sunlight. It takes all my strength to shift to the other side.
From this vantage point, I take notice of commonalities between the two women encountering one another in deep waters. The sunlight accentuates the curves of the she-yacht, curves designed to replicate what is pleasingly feminine. Designer son has his handprints all over this shapely ship. My husband has noticed her boat curves, and mine.
Her reach extends into family ties and beyond. Each of us makes use of knots. Knots that bind ship to shore. Knots that bind past to present. Knots that tighten the tension of lines, and knots that strain the lines of relationships. In my shared spaces with this other female, truth and untruth have gotten knotted together. In a similar way, true humility and false humility got bound up too…all requiring disentangling and needing some ship-shaping. Knots, I now know, need untying when venturing from the safety of a homeport.
“Ready to return to the harbor and dock?” the captain’s voice disrupted my momentary boat bonding. From HOT—honest, open and transparent— conversations with husband-captain, he no longer assumes that I instantly recall all the complexities of this sea maiden. Complexities…something else we have in common. We patiently reviewed which of the four dock lines I would first toss up to him once I landed on the dock. Then he calmly identified the second one to toss, and so on. I love the captain for his considerate explanation void of any sarcasm or ridicule of my sailing insecurities.
Though I had leapt from boat to deck many times before from other boats, this was my first solo attempt leaping from this new deck three feet above the dock that is an additional few feet above the water. Not only was this a longer stretch but a wider once since the oversized fenders were already lowered on the starboard side of the boat where I stood. As the dock drew closer, I eliminated three vertical feet by sitting into my calculated, catapult position.
With pretend courage and wanting to prove my worth as first mate, I launched my whole body forward, fully expecting at least a 7.8 landing score. My leap—from my bottom—was powerful. My next thought…I am underwater! And submerged between a moving 20-ton boat and an immovable dock is not a good place to be. Either I could be squeezed to death, or trapped underneath a foreboding hull like National Geographic divers looking for a hole in the icecap. Amazing how many thoughts can flood through one’s mind in seconds.
I looked up to sunlight above me, sensing a great, dark hull close behind me. Powering to the surface, I grappled for the dock, frantically flailing to hoist myself out of the water and out of danger. Kicking, heaving, panting, pushing…one elbow made it to dock level. Then two unfamiliar arms reached down for me and I awkwardly wet-flopped onto the pavement.
The two, tentative dock hands were not quite sure how to respond to a waterlogged wife of a sailor. I may have caught a glimpse of some exchanged smirks. Relief leaked from my soggy clothes and hair while adrenaline pumped through each new heave of breath. The men firmly knotted she-yacht to dock while I shivered back critical voices gaining volume inside me: “You look so foolish…you are so inept….talk about getting in over your head.....”
My long-legged captain leapt down and enveloped me into a towel, muffling the cacophony within. “Wanna warm shower?” he invited tenderly. I reboarded the boat not daring to look any higher than my toes. Shame dribbled off me and left little puddles after each step to the shower. Warm water washed over me as I peeled saturated garments from my skin. Naked and exposed, I replay the leap, the panic, the voices. More water, more cleansing, more pressing into the discomfort of these strong feelings. And then I think I notice...another voice running off and down the drain.
After my shower and into my hiding time in the cockpit, I overhear the voice of another captain commanding action from his crew as they dock their humongous power boat. “Don’t jump, toss those guys the dock lines.” After big boat is secured to the dock and the engine cut, the captain announces over his loudspeaker, “Nice job crew.”
Mustering levity to the surface, I turned to husband captain, “How come I didn’t hear that when we docked?”
With a playful smirk, he responded, “You must have been underwater when I said it.”