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It’s one month away, now.  By this time in May, I should be alone aboard Prodigal, a stalwart, thirty-foot ketch that was sailing the open ocean before I learned to ride a bike; before the Vietnam War really got going; before our hopes in Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., were dashed; before the Orioles swept the Dodgers in four at the 1966 World Series. Yes, she is that old, and so am I. But thanks to the wizards in the shipyard at Ferry Point, she is new again. I am not, but there is no bolt or brace or sealing wax that can fix that.  No matter. In one month’s time we shall be finding our way together to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and heading, not south along the coast, but for the open ocean—seven hundred miles of it, to be more or less exact, between the mainland and St. George’s Harbor in Bermuda.

Why Bermuda? I don’t know.  Simple question, short answer. Maybe it’s just closer than Spain.  Maybe it’s just about as far as I can go for as long as I can go before having to return from that most real and elemental of worlds to the world of work and worry we have invented to fill our days. At sea I have a sure and simple heading.  On land I wander mostly lost.

I can hear the ocean already.  Imagining this voyage is starting to fill in and around my every idle moment, like a rising flood. I see myself alone on deck in a night sea, the dark waves rising all but unseen, the wind whispering its warnings. I shall shorten sail sooner, this time–easier to do with a ketch rig—and be damn sure to check the halyards for chafe.  I will make peace with the sea insofar as it is willing, and sail on its terms, not mine. I will do my very best, God help me.

I can feel the ocean.  The rise and fall and pitch and yaw of it, beneath the deck.  Let it come.  Nearly 2,000 pounds heavier  though two feet shorter than Gypsy Moon, with a deeper, narrower keel, the Prodigal cuts the seas like a knife and gives her crew a gentler, more seakindly ride.  The sailor must not lose heart and forget that the sea was “made to be sailed over,” Joshua Slocum wrote. I shall put the sea to its purpose, then, and the Prodigal to a voyage worthy of her name.

I can taste the ocean. It is the flavor of salt and Sargasso and the whole history of mankind. It was there, “in the beginning.” It is there still as it has ever been, its moods changing but its character fixed through all the long ages of the Earth.

“They that go down to the sea in ships,” the psalmist wrote, “that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.”  I can see the wonders already. They fill my dreams, and soon comes that wondrous dawn.