This beautiful brigantine is the Soren Larsen (not to be confused with the Danish footballer of the same name). I was privileged to go for a sail on her just before Christmas, and fell head-over-heels in love. If you think it’s crazy to be in love with a ship, you should meet her crew – every one of them goes dreamy-eyed the minute they start talking about her. Check out her life story, and some amazing pics of her at sea, at http://www.sorenlarsen.co.nz/.
She’s here because of Hans’ comment on my post Notions of Home. He spoke of feeling “at home” on his boat, where the surroundings are always changing but he feels centred and comfortable, making all the choices. To quote the inimitable Captain Jack Sparrow, “Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails; that’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.”
So far, in my thinking about a place of safety, I’ve been picturing a fixed place, a geographic location. There’s some pretty fascinating interplay between the idea of safety, and the idea of freedom. Isn’t it a commonplace, for example, for children to feel their freedom is hampered, when their parents are trying to make them safe? At the same time, feeling safe can be seen as a major component of feeling free, and vice versa.
We love stories about a person and a vessel – sea captains and pirates, round-the-world sailors, gypsies, narrow-boat owners, aviators, racing drivers, balloonists.
We also love stories about groups of people on ships and other travelling vessels. From the Love Boat to the Starship Enterprise, we recognise that a community forms when people live in close quarters, relying on each other and the vessel in which they voyage. You can see it happen in a day or a morning, on a dive boat or a cruise – alliances form between strangers, people help each other, odd frictions and tensions arise, there are status battles (“Darling, you simply must dive Darwin Arch in the Galapagos, I went because I wanted a special experience for my 1000th dive”) – then suddenly everyone’s united in some moment of joy and wonder (“DOLPHINS!!!!”)
The only boat I’ve ever owned was an inflatable dinghy, when I was ten, and I had to share that with my brothers and sister – but what a wonderful thing it was, to be able to paddle out over the deep water where I’d have been too scared to swim. You can go all sorts of places in a boat that you can’t go otherwise. Of course it introduces a whole new gamut of risk and danger as well. Love it.
I recently wrote a short story based on a line I found in a fortune cookie. I still have it stuck on the wall beside my desk: “The ship is safer in the harbour, but it is not meant for that”.
Hans has got me all jealous now.
“I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…”