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Looking for the Ocean July 24, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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February 26. Covered 172 miles. Cloudy sky, grey sea. Nothingness.

February 27, Covered 94 miles. Blue sky, blue sea. Nothingness.

— Two log entries from Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way.

This is not the ocean, these rolling waves crashing into the sand just below my balcony. It is merely the edge of the thing, a ragged hem. The ragged band of devotees to sun and surf who assemble each morning at the water’s edge do not really understand the depth and breadth of what lies past the dim gray line that is the horizon.

I have never voyaged out onto the true ocean, the place where land is mostly memory, but one of my compulsions is reading the literature of adventure, particularly that involving long, solo voyages into the heart of blueness. Here on the shore we are barely acolytes of the sea, mere poseurs compared to men and women like Moitessier, the ones who sail out far and alone into the very depths of the Southern Ocean.

There is no Poseiden lurking off the shores of the Florida panhandle. The young women basking in the sun substitute weakly for sea nymphs, sandy-diapered children chasing the sea birds and the rolling breakers are our only water sprites. The ocean of the water gods, the ocean of Moitessier lies far beyond anything the beer sipping sunbathers can even begin to conceive.

I think my neighbors in the sand would find the epigram above confusing. To me it is one of the best descriptions of Oceanness, of the true nature of the great rolling thing at my feet that I have ever found. I know that Ocean is out there, and I am as humbled as a Haji standing in the sand just gazing out towards it.

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