I took a big leap yesterday when I hopped on a tourist boat trip from Petra, breathing the fresh sea air as we bumped, glided and sailed around the northern island coast of Lesbos, passing tourist towns and fishing villages, arriving about two hours later at the tiny harbor of Skala Skyamnias (my spelling may be questionable..its all greek to me), to walk around, buy some olive oil and canned sardines, drink a small coffee at a quaint outdoor cafe in front of curing octopus, then turn around and sail back to the Petra dock.
For some who know me, this may come as a big surprise. Not my being in Greece, except to say why Lesbos (to which I say “why not?!), but wondering why or how I could possibly ever, ever, ever (yes you read three “evers”) get on another small boat in my lifetime?
I spent three years, in my early twenties, aboard a 38-foot salmon, gillnet/troller which sometimes docked in Vancouver, Canada. This was after a car accident which relieved me of several creative yet tormented years of designing exclusive men’s clothing in Beverly hills, suffering streaming verbal epithets of abuse exiting the mouth of my cocaine addled boss who claimed my designs for his own.
The “accident” (there are none in my book) gave me a weird sort of freedom, once recovered from the vehicle smash up. I was then, gainfully unemployed and adrift when a handsome fisherman appeared at my door inviting me for my very own romantic British Columbian fishing adventure. I was, shall we say, horny for the man, the travel and the notion of unbridled sex at sea. I was, shall we say, blindly adventurous and optimistic. (Some of this has not changed one iota.)
It is here in my story where the seas of imagination (and reality) get stormy. Metaphors notwithstanding, my experiences in this tiny boat were anything but smooth, sexy or romantic, save perhaps when we were docked in a sleepy fish village similar to Skala Skyamnias, and I could put my feet on dry and steady land, even if it was the romantic notion of cooking without needing to be bracing myself as series of angry swells bombarded our boat, all this while trying to stir a pot of canned chili on the diesel stove. The movie “The Perfect Storm” did some credit to imitate strong elements of my experiences while fishing in the Pacific Northwest; the big differences were:
1. We survived the very rough seas. (I must have a guardian angel or twelve)
2. There were only two of us aboard the fishing boat (which was, if only at first, romantic)
3. We knew to head for shore if a storm was predicted ((the predictions then were mor of a crapshoot than today- see guardian angels in #1)
4. We were on a smaller boat, (A small boat in a stormy sea- either pre or post storm is fucking scary, as vulnerable, maybe more so, as a big one.) to which I say “Yikes!”, still to this very day.
5. The handsome fisherman was a raging alcoholic. To my credit I was stone cold sober and I learned quickly how to navigate using charts and sometimes the stars when he was in a drunken stupor.
Three years later I left the man, the boat, Canada and the storms (both nature and manmade) to move to San Francisco where I once the boat to Alcatraz and back to take pictures and settle into yet another relationship with the man who was to become the father of my two children. This relationship was slightly less stormy.
Over the years, since my exciting (understatement) ocean adventures, I have taken several large and less thrilling, voyages to the Caribbean, Mexico, across the English Channel by hovercrafts, slow ferries and high speed comfort cruisers, and cruise ships, as well as the “bus ferries” to and from Orcas Island in the San Juan islands. Ships carrying me a couple hours or a couple days in mild weather and seas have been necessary nuisances and very occasional pleasures even though I thought I never quite developed sea legs.
I have a great respect for our Mother Earth, and her oceans specifically. I have seen some of who and what lies below… It is both awesome and at times awful. I know, even in as much as any human can know, just how fragile we humans can be in her presence, especially me…I used to get quite seasick, which does not help the seagoing experience.
I have rocked and rolled in the seas (also dance floors, air and land) of my life. In California earthquakes where glass broke, bridges collapsed, power was lost for several days and I turned the gas off to prevent a similar outcome to the resulting fire due to the earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco, I rocked rocked, altered my life and awareness to survive.
Similarly, my excursions to find fish and love, in the powerful Pacific waters, caused great rocking and rolling movement and change as illustrated in preceding paragraphs. I shall save my further elaboration for some other time.
During the late sixties I was in my teens (and somewhat rebellious – big surprise), I hung out at the Whisky a Go go and other Hollywood haunts, hanging out with the bands, playing groupie, testing my limits (sex, drugs & you know what) as many adolescents do, and I was very lucky (see#1 above, again). Rocking and rolling in my youth was a precursor to the coming waves of the pacific.
Divorce from my first husband found me airborne, rolling in the skies, as lightning struck the TWA 747 jumbo-jet in which I was a passenger, as we circled Heathrow. Those around me gasped and cried whilst I pondered whether or not this was my time….I held onto my seatbelt and seat…my ass and me moving up as gravity was bringing the plane down, the power going on and off. A very wild ride. When we landed passengers bent to kiss the ground as we deplaned.
Again, years later, post divorce from second husband, Peter, I rode another big plane from JFK to Madrid – for 6 hours, where we were tossed about the questionably friendly skies, like beans in a child’s second grade art and music project, in a late spring storm…most passengers were using the “turbulent weather” bags, some unsuccessfully, to deposit the contents of their very upset stomachs. Seated next to me was a young woman, her first flight, (my luck) who cried and barfed, most times with me holding her head to comfort her and keep myself from becoming soiled with her technicolor yawn. Once again, divorce and landing safely proved to me it was not my time, no matter how bad I rocked and rolled.
Yesterday, I leaned most of the time against the wheelhouse of the boat and we headed into the wind, the boat sometimes smacking down against the sea, often the small waves hitting and spraying me ever so slightly. I discovered I don’t get seasick anymore nor do I get divorced, though in a way, Max leaving for parts unknown, was a heavy-duty rock and roll experience from which it appears I have survived and am beginning to thrive. As we sailed back into the sunset to return to Petra for a wonderful Greek feast prepared in an upstairs family restaurant, (the name of which I do not know, so don’t ask), I felt a new calm, much like the sea which was now surrounding our boat “The Sea Breeze”. The heavens may appear to wreak havoc, causing me to rock and roll, whether by air, land, sea or on the proverbial dance floor of my life…and I will enjoy the ride and each time I will once again learn to thrive.
See you soon.