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photo by Ginny Atkins

A Sailor's Dream by Garry Prater

photo taken in Calibogue Sound, Hilton Head Island

(first published in Good Old Boat magazine, June 2004)

There is only one creature that lives between sea and sky. She is a creature of mass, displacing tons of water, yet sensitive to the very breath of the wind. She rides the currents of oceans, shoulders their massive billows, and nods in respect to each passing ripple. Treading an unmarked path, leaving no trace, governed by the immutable laws of physics, yet promising untold freedom, a sailboat fulfills a sailor’s dream.

A sailboat is created by the hands of craftsmen from the stuff of earth. On land she is a dead weight to be moved only by powerful machines and propped up lest she fall over like a helpless infant. Conceived in the mind of a wizard, she comes alive only at the interface between sea and sky. That restless surface gives her life and energy, her soul comes from magic.

On those occasions when air and water move as one, she helplessly drifts or moves only with mechanical effort. She finds her true self in the struggle between the inexorable sea and the irresistible wind. She taps a small portion of their boundless energy to propel her purposeful strides, yielding to their power yet using it to achieve her goals. When they threaten she slips through their grasps, resisting their courses to lay her own.

She is guided and cared for by her skipper and crew who love and serve her, they feel pride in her presence and struggle with her imperfections. Her possession is only temporary for she is a creature of the sea and sky. Sailors, for all their love of the sea, are creatures of the land. Only together, caring for each other and testing each other, are sailor and boat set free to wander the oceans and visit distant shores.

A sailboat’s connection to the land is tenuous yet inevitable. She seeks its shelter while carefully avoiding its searing touch. Perhaps she knows that someday, when she is tired or her skipper has grown old or careless, she will give up her life and return to the land, no longer feeling the tug of an anchor rode or the heel of a gust. No longer will she feel the sun hot on her skin while she patiently waits for her crew to set her free again.

One day her bones will lie rotting in a field or on a reef, or ground up in a pile of refuse, forgotten except, perhaps, by the one or two who shared her moments of glory. They will relive the delight of glistening spray, rolling swells, and her eager response to a freshening breeze. They will remember when the world was simplified to one boat, one crew, and one limitless horizon. And they will remember with humility how she carried them safely through the storm.

They will smile, with a catch in their throats, and she will sleep, lost to all except in their memories. Until they, too, are gone and her glimmer, like her wake on the sea, disappears. But her magic will linger and be reborn… in the mind of a wizard, the hands of a craftsman, and the dreams of a sailor.

Garry Prater, Jan. 2003

Minolta DiMAGE Z1
1/50s f/3.2 at 5.8mm iso50 full exif

other sizes: small medium original auto
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Ashley Hockenberry01-Jan-2006 01:40
Excellent shot!!!