A Sailor’s Insignificance

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By Jackie Leavitt

Out on the deck, you can see the lumbering rollers gather their mass, swell up and ooze toward you, then under you, lifting the sailboat up in a side-to-side rock. If you were on a beach, you would be sure that they would soon break into a crashing, curling surf, pounding hard into the sand and seashells. But here, they seamlessly and endlessly roll on: There are other more interesting things for them to see than you.

In the cockpit, it’s easy to accommodate the shifting vertigo, perhaps because you can anticipate the rhythm, even when not gazing to the horizon. Standing, you can bend your knees, alternating for the sway from one side to the other like riding a Roman chariot across Poseidon’s waves. Even sitting or laying down, it feels like the boat is a larger, less-safe bassinet, gently lulling you into a suspicious sleep.

But below deck, you’re at the mercy of the boat’s pitching, throwing you from side to side like an earthquake out for vengeance for a long simmering transgression. The best way to move forward is like a staggering drunk: one step forward, pause for shifting weight, two quick steps forward, pause, another half step — then you’re tossed into the boat wall, your shoulder breaking your fall, as the ocean chuckles at your ill fortune: What folly for you to think you could walk on water.

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The ocean belches and gurgles as the sailboat bobs and sways on the waves. Inside the boat’s belly, the stove swings on its hinges, dipping forward as the vessel leans left, and falling backward when it rocks right. On the burner sits solidly a pepper-and-copper-colored pot, filled three-quarters with water swirling clockwise in a whirlpool. And there, an egg hovers directly in the middle, motionless as a the world swivels around it.

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