One of the things that my mom and dad had in common was their love of the ocean. It always seemed natural to me; but, as I write this, I think my parents love of the sea was, well, out on the lip of the bell curve a little. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
When I was six there was a civil war in our country. Dad’s business in those days was running fishing charters and he had a small fleet of three catamarans — the cats as we called them. Perhaps there is something about running fishing charters or loving the sea that makes one indisposed to being shot at, because both my mom and dad decided rather quickly after the violence started to sell our family home and the oldest of the cats and strike for new harbors.
With some cash in hand, we bought and stocked the remaining two cats with our supplies and a few irreplaceable family possessions such as our photo albums. Mom got new sails rigged and bought spares. The tanks were topped off and the engines serviced. Dad bought his maps and nautical charts and did his research as to where the best places to try to re-establish his business might be. Nothing was for certain then. It was a period of frenetic activity. My own memory of the preparations is one of pure excitement. For my older siblings and I this was all being viewed as the great adventure. I even thought that this was going to be an answered prayer, a serious break from school that with a small increment of bonus luck would banish school forever for me. Yes, it took me a week to discover that my big brother had packed away a bag of school books in our cabin.
On the other hand, I imagine my parents were likely anxious. They had decided to run but didn’t have a fix on the destination. Dad circled a half-dozen prospects on his maps. Then, on a Sunday morning, the church bells ringing, I sat in my orange life jacket on the cargo net in the bow of our catamaran and watched all that I had known of my life up until then slip away astern. I felt the cool saltwater spray as we swept over the waves, stinging my skin, but a welcome relief from the sun. Behind us, my dad’s friend, William, followed in the other cat, it’s new rainbow sail taunt and full with the wind.
We sailed the open sea then. Our world reduced to two catamarans and sea and sky. My brother and sister and I would sometimes spend the day on different cats and encourage our father, or William as the case may have been, to win the race with no finish line. Some days I would fish, dangling a line off the back of the boat. In the evenings, we’d bring the cats close and have family dinners together on the deck. The sun wouldn’t have set over the ocean even then and mom would read to us all a chapter of Nancy Drew or whatever she could scrounge up below decks.
After story time, the three of us kids made a ritual of climbing into the cargo net and watching the most glorious sunsets as the great ball of fire in the sky refracted in the atmosphere and reflected off the sea, appearing to set both the water and air of our Earth aflame. The three of us, laughing with each other, were glad to be alive. Looking at the brilliant clouds overhead, we would point one out to each other and say ‘cow’, ‘unicorn’, ‘race car’ or as in my brother’s case ‘a fat lady with galoshes and a big pillow riding a reindeer’. Where he came up with that stuff, no one knows. Of my earliest, fondest memories, our home on the sea is the only home that I see.
Copyright © 2014 – Eric A. Schweitz