Open Water

The CAP’N LEM is clear of the Saint Lawrence River and is well into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. They must have thought a lot of Saint Lawrence to have names such grand bodies of water after him.

I miss the interesting detail of the river bank and the islands. I miss the comfort of a safe anchorage with a good muddy bottom to hold the CAP’N LEM put. But it’s good to be in open water, water with waves and swells and unbent wind. Things change on the open water. The stress of many boats and few mariners is gone. Those out here are sailors whether motor, steam or sail. They have a reason for being here and that makes them easier to deal with, much less unpredictable.

Open water gives the mind freedom to roam the past, the present and the future. It gives the body so measure of freedom too. With fifteen miles of view all around it’s acceptable to go below to cook, clean or just tinker. I prefer tinkering. I put extra lashings on the trampoline. I made some new preventers using Cunningham hooks. Very useful in holding down the sails and boom to reduce chafe in the new added motions from the swells. I can read or write. I can even dose if I remember to set my alarm so as to not over do it. Something inside just won’t let me take my eyes of the horizon for very long. I search the horizon, check the radar and AIS for any hints of company and note my position on the chart. I’m right now seven miles off shore on a parallel course and making 2.5 knots. It would take me hours of being on the wrong heading to run aground, so that’s not a problem.

This longing to look is a leftover habit of many many sea watches. I loved getting a new ensign fresh out of the academy, to break in on watch on the POLAR SEA or the POLAR STAR. With binoculars around my neck I would jester out the windows and say something like this. “Your business is out there. Look at the radar, look at the chart, look up, look down but never forget to …look out! That’s your business. Out there. Best the Captain see the back of your head ‘stead of your smiling young face when he comes through that bridge door. It is your watch.” Later, when they were getting it, I would add this, quieter, for emphases, “Never. Never let the terrible weight of responsibility slip from your shoulders for even a moment of your watch.”

Now those days are gone. I only have myself to tell. “Never let the terrible weight of responsibility slip…” It’s my watch and this time my watch is endless.

My July 16, 2009 position report: Lat 50° 07’ 40”N ~ Lon 065° 43’ 36”W. WX wind w 4kts, swell sw at 4’

Partly cloudy with distant cumulous. C- 090T S-2kts

2 Responses to “Open Water”

  1. Kari Thoresen says:

    Hi Tommy!

    Apparently, it was on the ‘Feast of Saint Lawrence’ (Aug 10th) that French explorer Jacques Cartier anchored in a small bay near the mouth of a great river. He named it St. Lawrence Bay. The name stuck, and spread to the gulf, the river, and even the local First Nations Tribe. I too, wonder what St. Lawrence must have done to achieve a feast day all his own. I should research it sometime.

    I’m glad you got that stern light fixed.
    Hold Fast

  2. WillieFife says:

    Now I know why I’ve kept the Penguin Dictionary of Saints around for 25 years. As you might have suspected, Lawrence was a martyr, put to death (in 258) in Rome. Asked to turn over the church’s valuables to the city, he got all of the poor and sick together and presented them: “Here is the church’s treasure.” After that–or maybe because of that–he was roasted on a grid, and so his emblem is a gridiron.