When was the last good conversation you had with a stranger? It's a pretty rare thing in the modern world, but every time I take Annie for a sail I know I'll have at least one good conversation, generally when I'm rigging or de-rigging. In fact if middle-aged women want to meet really nice middle-aged men, the best thing for them to do would be to make or buy a Navigator and spend a while rigging it....I'm not in the market, but I do meet some lovely chaps and it's nice to have a yarn and swap a story or two.
Sometimes the stories are even based on truth, if not entirely true, but that is the nature of stories. Connecting is the thing, and the flow of ideas and words comes from the presence of the boat as the ice-breaker, the meeting point of dreams and aspirations; maybe even secret desires for irrational things made solid and readable and tangible, and capable of vague justification.
Mostly these men fish and have an aluminium boat that costs more than I earn in a year, but their tone is dreamy and enquiring, as if making something beautiful is way beyond what the world expects of them, or would allow them. I feel very lucky, but confused at the same time because beauty is cheap if you're prepared to turn up to the process of learning how to make it.
Well to-day I had a conversation of an altogether different order with a creature that lives the beauty that we can only work at strapping ourselves to, and he or she did me the honour of spending some time looking Annie and me over, without the usual questions and comments because it was generally agreed between us that, of the two of us he/she was the true possessor of a beauty that I can only scratch at the edges of.
And I think it was the silent greyness of Annie that caused him to give me the time of day because he carries a few scars from other encounters of a much less friendly nature I think.
I saw him at a distance and ghosted in his direction in a piffling breeze (which turned out as a blessing because I could leave the sheets and tiller to their own devices while I sat on the foredeck and communed with a stranger) and we cruised and bobbed to nowhere in particular while he showed me what it really means to breath and curl the toes. And there's me sitting in pale awkward imitation of a creature trying desperately to find peace and space in a peaceful and spacious place.
He bobbed and weaved and stayed within visible distance and twirled and showed me bits that I never knew dolfins possessed while I sat on the foredeck with a silly grin on my face and a phone in my hand, but blissfully, nowhere to be in a hurry.
After more than 30 minutes of this intercourse the jib creaked, and on the second day of Winter the tell-tales told me to sit up and notice the wind-change slicing across the bay and it was three sheets in hand while I made sense of the wind and away we went at speed. The change brought a 3ft chop and not a small bit of adrenalin as I made sense of it all, hardly turning to say farewell to my new friend, without a hope of writing down his email. I tacked for some miles then jibed in the waves because home was starting to look like the sort of place where a man might comfortably be, and the jibe took me to surfing downhill, weaving and surging before the growing wind.
I had some moments of thoughtfulness but none of the thoughts involved doubting the boat, feeling safe and capable with options before me if things escalated further. Pointing at the headland, bucking and rearing I turned into the wind and furled the jib and dropped the main and surged into the little St.Helens marina on a swell and very, very happy.
Another video of my encounter is on Flickr. I took lots of videos, but will spare my reader the details....