Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Winter gale at Indian Point

The gale builds rapidly to forty knots. A winter south-easter is roaring across from Puget Sound and rushing up Fulford Harbour. Big waves, by our standards, crash upon the rocky shore and the wind screams among the trees of Indian Point. Here I am with my camera, perched on a cliff edge, leaning out to get just that perfect angle. I am happy today, there is something about being in a storm that makes the adrenaline flow and of course these conditions create great pictures.

The dangerous part of this walk today are the trees; the chances of a branch or a top being whipped loose and landing on me is high but I am on task, focussed on recording the action. Spectacular! Even among the shadowy trees it is easy to capture the blurred thrashing of the younger ones with a slow shutter speed, although pressing the camera against a large tree trunk for stability does not work as it usually does because even down close to their roots they too are stirring uneasily.

Further down the cliff edge trail I hear a voice behind me. A bearded fellow shouts that he thought he should warn me in case he startled me into leaping over the edge. I laugh and reply that if only my camera was rescued so Bill`s last photo could be saved! I catch up with him later back at the point facing into the storm. Just the two of us here, two people addicted to wind and wave.

He introduces himself as Derek Lundy and I realize that he is a writer about the sea and a sailor himself. I’ve even read one of his books about a square rigger sailing around the Horn, based on the life of an ancestor of his and say how I really liked it. A distant ancestor of mine was lost off the Horn so it had a real relevance for me. He mentions another book he has written about the Vendee Globe race. We part to follow our separate paths home.

A few days later I buy ‘Godforsaken Sea’ and find it a very well written book indeed and I have enough sea experience to move completely into the story. I finally get to the chapter where he interviews the sailors who race alone around the world nonstop through the Southern Ocean. As they talk about how the experience has affected them it is as if a door has opened for me. They are talking about the stuff that I have felt myself and had difficulty transmitting to others. All my sailing in the Pacific was well north of the Southern Ocean but I remember vividly how we repeated our mantra “Boring is good” while at sea because so often it seemed that the other side of routine was wild. Then there were those long, long voyages, especially the last leg home from Tarawa on the equator to Vancouver Island, - over two months, many thousands of miles, amid typhoons, squalls and westerly gales. When talking about the experience I have tried to compare it to war-time combat, living close to death, combined with a sense of the transcendence of the great oceans. During the final approach to Juan de Fuca Strait when it looked like we might survive after all, a sense of deliverance was mixed with a tremendous regret to be moving from this enormous experience back into the superficial, chatty world of human society. Extreme conditions beget extreme experiences and major changes in how we see the world.

No coincidence after all to meet a fellow sailor drinking in the powerful natural energy of a gale at Indian
Point.  for Derek`s website. The windjammer book is 'The way of the Ship'

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