I'm a rather landlocked seafarer living up here in Interior Alaska. Although I've sometimes entertained notions of sailing a Viking ship up the Chena River, for the most part I must remain content to ruminate and regurgitate early childhood memories of sailing on the San Francisco Bay.
Certain things get permanently embedded in one's cerebral cortex, and there isn't much you can do about it. Smells are particularly tenacious in this regard. Some of my earliest memories are the fragrances surrounding the Palo Alto Yacht Club in the very early 1960's where my older brother raced El Toros. The redolence of tar, South Bay low-tide muck, kerosene, past-their-prime fish and tackle and salt air blends in an olfactory circus just on the suburbs of my consciousness.
These were happy-scary, adventuresome times. My brother, Mark, was four years older than me, and though we had the typical sibling squabbles, he was never close enough in age to be direct competition. Mark would, when he wasn't racing, take me out in his tiny-but-eminently-seaworthy, eight-foot El Toro, constantly remind me not to drink out of the bailing bucket, (but it LOOKS clean!) and launch forth out where we'd risk life and limb against the elements. (A lot of East Coasters don't realize the weather on the San Francisco Bay can get plumb NASTY...as hazardous as anything to be found in New England, despite the much more-tauted and vaunted seamanship back East). We survived and recovered from numerous capsizings, always coming back drenched and shivering. Our parents never worried...we had Kapok life vests after all....and bigger boats were always nearby, so help was never far away if we really needed it...which we never did. Everyone in our family was a strong swimmer.
This all seemed so normal. I've learned much later that it's not. In the past generation or so, we have taken all the barnacles and bilge water out of our children's lives. We've sanitized and organized them into a semi-comatose state. We put helmets on our kids' precious craniums before they ride a tricycle! How did the human race ever survive before the Consumer Product Safety Commission?
Since we've deprived our progeny of any natural risk, is it any wonder that they go out of their way to create really STUPID artificial risks....activities with known, permanent, devastating and detrimental effects....such as illicit drug use...or watching Paris Hilton? Skinned knees and broken bones heal, but liquefied brains don't.
Life is supposed to be full of surprises. A little prudence is a good thing, but unrelenting security is deadening.
As Ben Franklin said: "Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither."
Give me the freedom of the open sea. I'll risk some barnacles and bilgewater.
Causes Eric Nichols Supports
Free Burma Rangers, Partners Ministries (Thailand), Literacy council of Alaska, Access Alaska.