This passage speaks to the ambivalence I feel towards our position today, looking back in admiration, wanting to somehow participate in what remains of the grand tradition these boats epitomize.
I’ve spent my adult life in the shadow of the Banks Schooners. Growing up looking out across one of their greatest harbors as the dwindling number and growing decrepitude of their bastard descendants, the Diesel powered draggers, followed by ungainly modern trawlers, left the sea as bare above as they had the waters below.
The following is an excerpt from Shoal Hope. A reluctant rum-runner contemplates the schooner he loves, and feels he’s betrayed.
These schooners… this one, Actæon. So well-fitted to her world. So well matched to what they were built to do!
I’ve never been to Europe. Never seen a great cathedral. Something so well made. Holding the effort, the spirit, of all those who built it. Never seen one face-to-face. A real presence. Built over centuries. Stone. Glass. Monumental. Permanent.
Schooners? Not part of anybody’s grand scheme! No pope or king ever gave their form any thought! Just another tool for a miserable little industry. Well out of sight. Used hard. Worn out. Wrecked. Abandoned. Or, burned ashore for their iron.
They’re special, dammit! I know it! I can see it. Feel it in my bones. Actæon moves under me. She moves! No cathedral can do that!
Fool! Nobody gives a damn! Fishermen don’t care. Her old crew? They were excited to make their move onto a dragger. No more hassles: sailing, tending trawl from a dory. A warm focs’le. Nets full of fish. The steady drone of a Diesel under the wheelhouse, pushing them along in any direction. Any time. Constant speed. No worries over calms or squalls. S’what they want! Back-coves up and down the coast littered with derelict schooners. Tide running up and down inside their rotting carcasses twice a day…. Nobody cares.
Phillips cared. Seemed to. Mighty relieved to pass her along for all his fine appreciation! His model. His mythology!
Maybe that’s enough for him?
Why do I do this? Even if it doesn’t kill me? Waste my life in this racket, chasing something-for-nothing.
Keep the schooner?
Always some angle. A scheme. A quick, easy dash. Where does that leave what drew me to Actæon in the first place?
Danger. It’s the only comfort I’ve got left. The jolt of self-preservation. Adrenaline kicking in! A focus. A sort of clarity. Yea, it’s temporary. I’m like a baboon spotting a leopard. Did the leopard cause all his misery? No, but it’s impossible to ignore…. And so much fun to holler at!
The smell of danger. Action. Instinct! No need to deliberate, modulate, adjust. Take responsibility.
Am I courting disaster?
Are there warning signs? Sure! Part of the thrill. How far can I let things go?
So far I’ve stayed this side of tragedy-averted. I’ll take steps before things get totally out of hand….
So far so good!
I keep raising the stakes….