3 min read
Celerity Speaks

by William Thomas

I was born to run forever across the undulating plains of the deep-blue sea. There is joy in my gait, an untamed exuberance that flings rainbows of spray from all three bows. Polynesians call such spirit, mana.

     Because I am blind, day and night are all the same to me. My light displacement, spidery construction and native sea-sense respond instantly to every wrinkle in the turbulent interface, where sky rubs against ocean to form the winds and waves that propel – and sometimes imperil – me.

While I can slot into any seaway if given the right wardrobe, I cannot adjust those sails, scrub my bottom, recover my anchors, start my engine, dodge shoals, repair damage or chart my course. I need my people for that. Just as they depend on me for their next landfall.

     And their lives.

Orphaned on Gabriola Island, I converse only with the cedars whose kin form my stringers. Months pass. One day, I sense my builder’s van approaching. Someone new jumps out and runs toward me – then stands stock still, taking everything in…

     Propped on oil drums at the edge of the forest clearing, tan hulls awash in dappled light, I stand with wings outflung like a seabird poised for flight. Flanked by a pair of rapier-lean outriggers, cambered decks and low cabinsides accentuate my rakish lines. A nearly-plumb bow gives me a purposeful air, while preserving most of my 31-feet at the waterline.  Guided by a long, shallow fin, my underbody is round and sleek as a dolphin’s. Those full sections aft promise ample buoyancy for surfing. 

“Lord,” I hear my suitor breathe, already intoxicated by boat lust and freshly-sawn cedar. “If she sails as good as she looks…”

Designed by a descendent of Vikings, my lineage includes the double-outriggers of Southeast Asia and the asymmetric hulls of Micronesia’s flying proas. Aussie Hedley Nicol contributed double-diagonal planking. My box-beam crossarms come from Californian Arthur Piver. That Swede up in Haida Gwaii introduced my semi-submersible amas

     Bill Kristofferson’s 90-percent buoyancy outriggers are genius. Acting like shock-absorbers, they depress slowly in gusts – curtseying to spill wind, dampen rolling, and signal when to shorten sail. The former dhow sailor calls his new class of multihulls: Kismet.  

     Whenever the breeze stops, I sail by sorcery. When it rises to a soul-clutching shriek, I welcome such frolic as fun. Like a mischievous mutt always getting into the garbage, I have an affinity for heavy weather. And an uncanny ability to sniff it out. Happily for all concerned, my motion is seakindly. I am easily handled, utterly forgiving, and safe as a raft in a blow.

So many memories locked in a dozen layers of bottom paint...

With gumption and funds depleted and winter fast-approaching, on November’s last favoring tide my escape from Svend’s backyard begins with a Mad Max road trip behind an ancient pickup careening along narrow country lanes. 

The Scandinavian is driving too fast. But he must stop often for my captain to hammer dislodged wedges between my underwings and the teetering uprights nailed to that borrowed trailer. When the loaner truck’s brakes begin to fade, “Thomas” deploys a skittering anchor to slow us down. In two places on Cooper Road, they measure one-inch clearance between each float rubrail and massive firs. 

With only minutes remaining to high tide, I am poised like a high-diver atop the steep descent into Degnen Bay. My new owner and his recently-converted accomplice unhitch my trailer and start easing me down. Whatever are they thinking?

Skip the champagne. Sensing water, I bolt. As my rickety carriage thunders downhill between a stout fence and jagged ditch, the woman named “Thea” whips her guide-rope around a post. 

“Cast that line off!” the captain bellows. And she does. 

With their dreams and a year’s labor choking on distance and acceleration, I reach the bottom of the slope, buckboard across a smooth rock strand, and disappear beneath an explosion of spray.

Three heartbeats later I reappear, rocking gently in my new Pacific playground – but unable to float clear of that traumatized trailer. Some nudity and hypothermia follow. 

On September 7, 1977, I hang a left at Cape Flattery, hunting the south from northern fjords like a falcon released from the fist.

     “Into the infinite,” I hear the mate tell herself when she comes up on deck that first morning at sea to confront  majestic rollers whose flashing crests break without pause or trace on every hand. Intimidated by immensity, my sails are hobbled. Like any wild creature, I gripe and balk. Until the captain says, “Let’s shake out that second reef.”

Now aligned perfectly with immense and dynamic forces, I run laughing through the quartering troughs – light, fast, responsive…

And free.

Photo Captions

Celerity beached for rudder repairs in Pago Pago -Randy "Will" Thomas photo

Racing a squall in the high country of the open sea -Randy "Will" Thomas photo

Thea racing a typhoon into Guam -Randy "Will" Thomas photo