12 Jul Of The Sea
“He that will learn to pray, let him go to sea.”
“Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.”
“Smooth seas never made a skillful sailor.”
Over the centuries, men have attempted to tame the sea–to conquer its fickle whims and furies– whose perils have brought many-a-sailor to rest in its cold dark depths. Nondiscriminatory, Davy Jones’ locker forever holds the full spectrum of society’s population: the elite of the Titanic and other such luxury vessels, the middle class workforces of fishermen, sailers, navy fleets, and the lower dregs of society in the pirates, scallawags, and drifters. Often utilized for transportation or the extraction of its resources, the sea provides a means to survival, travel, commerce, and pleasure. However, like all sources of provision, there is a certain taxation that is required of its wayfarers.
As I write, I am navigating our vessel through the Prince William Sound as the boat’s captain and remaining crew rest in their bunks below. While ships of prior centuries relied on the trade winds to catch their sails towards their proper destination, I am relying on our auto-pilot system to hold steady at 45 degrees northeast. Regardless of technological advances, a healthy respect of the sea and its power is required for safe passage, and even so, no guarantees are made. Prior to turning over the helm, my captain inquired if I was nervous taking charge of the vessel’s wheel. “Absolutely,” I correctly replied. While no amount of experience grants immunization to the sea’s will, confidence in one’s abilities may allow for easier recognition of dangerous patterns or occurrences and provide the knowledge to circumvent any significant disaster. It is in this balance of nervousness, respect, and confidence that a seafarer must operate.
But the sea is more than a death trap. Historically and presently, it represents a place of sustenance, inspiration, mobility, and freedom. The sea is a place where monsters and mermaids coexist in folklore, where pirate treasures are found, and where tradgedies and triumphs become stories of legend. Throughout all, there seems to be is a certain romanticism found in poems, songs, and writings across historical literature. Reading classics such as The Oddysey, Moby Dick, The Endurance, Sea Wolf, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Robinson Crusoe, The Old Man and the Sea, and Treasure Island, I have always been struck by the idea that the sea itself, however inanimate, is often represented as a true character in the story. It is as if it were another personality, an actual being, invoking its wrath, grace, or miracles depending on circumstance.
I have found that once the sea is encountered head on, something deep and permanent is embedded in one’s core. Such is my story, continuing to the present. Perhaps this was predetermined, as my last name, Morgan, is derived from the Welsh word mor meaning “of the sea.” There comes a deep beauty and feeling of comfort floating across the earth’s surface, enhanced by vivid dreams as one sleeps to the sound of waves lapping across the bow. As I write from the captain’s chair today, I am surrounded by evergreen-covered mountains on each side and wrapped by a light fog across the glassy water. As the Alaskan summer sun swings low and circular across the sky, patches of sunlight strike distant islands and illuminates them in brilliant green. With no other boats for 5 nautical miles and with the crew napping, this is my world — a precious, solitary, beautiful world. Breaking this silence with a thunderous clap, a humpback whale leaps clear of the water 100 yards off my starboard side, like something from an Alaskan tourism magazine. I cannot manage to suppress feelings of gratitude, humility, and awe in times like these.
For the next 50 days, this is home. The sea is the physical place of my comfort and provision, and I hope to find rest, inspiration, monetary gain, and joy during my time here. However, above all else (and like many sailors for centuries past), all I hope for is that the sea is compassionate and allows me safe passage back into the loving arms of my wife.