Thursday, 31 March 2016

Tempestuous Currents

To quote Virgil, experto credite: I believe one who has had the experience.
I used to do the same in most matters; only listen to those that had gone before, or only offer others advice based on my own trial and errors. I didn't think you should recommend anything you hadn't tried. I still don't, but when it comes to weathering storms I don't think it can be applied. You have to be your own Captain, whether it's of an unseaworthy ship or of one that will withstand whipping winds and thrashing waves. One that will either end up at the bottom of the sea or in far sunnier climes.
I've been in a rickety ship, leaving Singapore en route to Australia, that took water on board; the resident rats scampering like a chained prison gang in the opposite direction to the encroaching sea, the travellers hastily following their scurried passage. Luckily, the ship did not sink. That time. It arrived a little behind schedule and was indeed more than a little waterlogged as were its soggy passengers. Anchored in port however, it was not detained long; just a few days until a further patch job was complete, when it was considered fit to once again ride the high seas. I watched its leave-taking, conscious still of its creaks and groans as harmless waves licked its unsound structure. Health and safety as we know it today was not in force then, but perhaps in risk there's adventure. At least for the hardened crew, I'm not sure the new influx of on-board passengers would have agreed. Those who are more used to dry land should never mess with tumultuous Nature.
Modern mini-cruises have, by comparison, been tedious. You reach your destination cantankerous, only to realise that in a few hours you have the return voyage to make. You feel the swell all right in your stifling cabin with its smaller-than-average-sized bunks, whilst without this haven fellow travellers mill about, attempting to find their sea legs or stuffing their mouths. Each with their own bored expression, that same face mirrored everywhere, even when the entertainment falsely tries to jolly you along.
Ferries are a more riotous affair. Short-lived with amusing (sometimes drunken) antics. A good knees-up can be had, particularly if you're on your way to Ireland. Clapping, foot-stamping and fiddles, and a few Guinness cans tossed around; the musicians' behaviour only slightly tempered by hyperactive children racing from one end of the ferry to the other as their parents abscond their normal parental duties; and you always get two trying to imitate Jack and Rose from the Oscar winning film 'Titanic'. Arms outstretched at the prow of the boat caterwauling the Celine Dion love theme.
Yet none of these sailing arrangements can compete with traversing the Bay of Biscay, as then your fate doesn't lie in your conveyance but in that body of water, where its moods are renowned for their erratic-ism and the skies are pulled down to meet them. Tempests when they strike in this region can be vicious, as venomous as a deadly viper's bite when death seems more in sight than an antidote to its venom. The calmness that follows such a day and a night comes suddenly as if the atmosphere had never been poisoned. The boat that violently lurched now gently sways, perfectly in rhythm with the placated current, though reminders are given that the same agitation could easily be stirred. Its repose broken to unleash more aggressive activity.
I used to cower in such storms, hide from the elements whether I be on land or at sea. I abhorred thunder and was scared as well as in awe of the electrical charge that split the skies in front and above me. Those streaks of light could destroy or animate life as thunder booms and rumbles overhead, but when rain begins to fall in heavy sheets its concentrated energy dissipates. Disperses this otherworldly phenomenon to other corners of the globe, moving away until it's barely heard and there's only the sight and sound of rain. Afterwards, everything is washed and green, refreshed, including the sea which turns glassy after such forcible conditions.
Tempests issued by nature and in life will come and should be indulged: met, yet not fought.

Picture Credit: Nelson's Ship in a Bottle, 2010, Yinka Shonibare. Photo taken by Stephen White.