When I leave the shore, it doesn’t matter whether it is settled with vacation homes, crowded with industry, or sporting a forest preserve because the water here in the Salish Sea is so cold and unforgiving that if I fall in, I wouldn’t last long.
The ferry, ships, and errant power boaters are certainly dangers, but often avoidable in the waters I travel. The currents, winds, and waves in the open waters of our inland sea make me feel a true sense of wild. Wearing the right gear and carrying safety equipment certainly can help in an emergency, but the feeling I have deep in my heart and gut when I’m out rowing my little boat quickly changes from delight to fear and back again.
I don’t have that feeling when I’m hiking in the wilderness of the Cascades. All appears to be peaceful there; if I’m tired I can just stop. Not so on the water. I must work my oars, trim my sails, and navigate my way to safe harbor.
But even as I approach the shore and relative safety, the spell is not broken so long as I am still afloat. I know that I could get pooped, strike a log, or get washed away by a strong current and that feels like a primordial struggle to me. Unlike the land, there isn’t much people can do to tame the water. It always wins.
So long as I’m out there, even with my friends, there’s a feeling of freedom and the uncertainty that comes with it. There’s always a danger, a need to be fully conscious of the surroundings, and a feeling that the sea has a life of its own to be respected.
Whether I’m out a few strokes from shore or a mile into a big crossing, it makes me feel that there’s a whole wilderness on the water.
Does anyone else feel the same way?