Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Following (2) "...love and fear of the sea..."

Tiger Yeomans thought about the books he’d read about the sea and how they represented his love and fear of the sea and something almost touching on actual experience. He stood at the corner of the headland on the ginger-coloured rocks, looking down at the rusty cracks. They resembled the surface of a seaway streaked and flattened by the wind.

Sea stories so exactly fitted the requirements of going out in boats that on the rare occasions when Tiger had reading time on the water he disliked reading them owing to a redundancy of experience, whereas on land he hardly read anything else.

His choice of reading was anything from Moby Dick to an article on dinghy sailing in Yachting Monthly, but of course that magazine had writers going back to Jack London, with whom, in a rather crestfallen way, Tiger had fallen out, as he had with friends whose bombast wore thin.

When Tiger pulled out a chart, or a book of knots, he experienced a gathering of intention as whimsical as the wind, before it was turned into a surge of accumulated problem-solving under the heading of a voyage.

Tiger puzzled over Melville, who said:

Ah, ye admonitions and warnings! why stay ye not when ye come? But rather are ye predictions than warnings, ye shadows! Yet not so much predictions from without, as verifications of the foregoing things within. For with little external to constrain us, the innermost necessities in our being, these still drive us on.

It was the pull of the sea story. The broad shape pre-existed.

A wealthy young man, leading a soft and comfortable life, was thrown into the water while on a fogbound San Francisco ferry after a collision with a steamer, plucked from the waves and forced to work as a crew member by a psycopathic skipper. Another man,  a novelist and magistrate, his limbs so swollen by oedema that he had to be trussed on and off the ship by a hoist, made a voyage to Lisbon at the very end of his life but with a spirit so hale and lively that he feels immortal on the page as he gives an account of that sail. A third man, calling himself Ishmael, makes Tiger grin and wince, just to think of him.

Tiger’s friends, Jake and Judith Try, sailed to the sub-Antarctic every summer on bird counts. The only expertise Tiger had ever displayed around that heroic bolt, Workers Comp,  was to suggest an apostrophe in the name, they could choose where.

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