Posted in Saturnius McWhirr stories

Esoteric Sailing 101-The Gnostic Gibe

The light north wind wafted over the sound and sent cats-paws scurrying across the blue surface of the water .  We were sailing down wind, up Colvos Passage down Colvos Passage before the wind, in the afternoon before the flood.sailing Old Hand 08 002

“Not yet,! Wait until I say helm’s a’ weather!”   Bellowed McWhirr.

The big sail had collapsed in at heap on the fore stay with the forlorn aspect of a nihilist’s nose-rag.


Then it luffed, as if thinking it over.

“… up a point.”

Old hand flew into the wind. The sail rose.

“Now bear away a touch.”

“Bearing away, sir.”

The genoa curved lovely over the port bow as  I nudged the helm up, and Boreas’ own sweet northerly began to pull Old Hand slowly across Colvos  on the opposite tack.

“That’s better lad. Ye’ll be another Joseph Conrad before long.”

I leaned against the anchor box to rest.sailing Old Hand 08 006

We flowed down the pass up sound…or is it up the pass downsound?

The gentle breeze caressed my face.

Aft, large eyes peered from the vegetation along the shore. Primeval beasts watched hungrily as we sailed back eddies past a dense jungle.

A derelict lumber mill hove in sight as we approached the opposite shore; it’s decayed pilings looked like a dejected stand of petrified loggers who had just cut down the last tree on earth.

“Ready to gibe, Mister Spencer.”

“Ready to gibe.”

“Helm’s a’ weather.”

The sail fouled in a hopeless tangle as Old Hand fetched up on the bank  with a low rasping sound. She  collapsed suddenly in a pile of flotsum.sailing Old Hand 08 003

She went down, by god.

“Ya scow-banker! I never saw such lubberly sail handling!”

With a volley of abuse, McWhirr grabbed a top maul and came at me like blue blazes with a bad attitude.

But then I had a flash. I saw that this whole maritime catastrophe was a mere shadow-a play of light.   All the stormy seas and foul currents fate pitches at this corporeal vessel are no more substantial than an Arctic aura; and no less sublime in scope and meaning.

I really had it over McWhirr.

I was Captain now.

I flew into the sky as McWhirr tied a bowline on a jib sheet and tried to lasso my leg.

“Come back down here ya square-headed haddock! I’m more real than ye’ll ever be!”

My heart pounded in my ears.   I looked up to see Old Hand nearing the shore.

“Ready to jibe, Mister Spencer.”

The sawmill had vanished in the blinding sunlight.

“Let’s put her about shipshape this time.”


I am an artist, writer and sailor in the Pacific Northwest.

2 thoughts on “Esoteric Sailing 101-The Gnostic Gibe

  1. Really enjoyed this! The whole scene came alive with your words. I loved that moment: ‘The sail fouled in a hopeless tangle as Old Hand fetched up on the bank with a low rasping sound. She collapsed suddenly in a pile of flotsum.’
    I really got a sense of the unpredictability of sailing, and also those moments of high achievement.

    1. Thanks Gabriel- I appreciate the feedback. It’s a recurring dream I have where I’m sailing down a freeway and my boat crashes. But then I realize it’s a dream, so everythings Ok. Glad you liked it.

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