The Sea & I
Like its tides, the sea creeps up on you. And if it
is always there, it's easy to take it for granted. Do that, and it will
prove fatal -- probably sooner rather than later. This harsh truth applies
equally to both a dinghy and an aircraft carrier but most sailors are
more concerned about seasickness than drowning.
The sea arrived at my doorstep when I was eight: we
had moved to a clifftop villa in Dorset -- a remote spot where Allied
troops rehearsed their D-Day crossing of the English Channel. I still
remember the gale that blew a carrier pigeon onto my nursery window
sill: the bird had a message banded to its leg, presumably from Ike. We
nursed it overnight, then gave it to the army. Any interested viewer
can see my perch by renting a video of The Longest Day: in the footage
where the American Rangers apparently heave grapnels and climb the
cliffs of Normandy, they are actually whistling past my head, just off
camera. (You can also read about it in The Charlatan Variations )
Besides building and living in houses by the sea --
-- I spent seventeen years in what used to be
the Royal Canadian Navy. By a very rough estimate I was out of sight of
land for five years, which is enough time looking at nothing but water
to make you think about it. And remember it.
Deciding to write a first novel about a warship seemed
fairly understandable: having it turn into a love triangle called
did surprise me at the time, but looking back, it does not. What else
can one call the relationship between a sailor, his ship, and the sea?
I think of this section, which mixes self-indulgence
and nostalgia, as a fond remembrance of those long ago loves. If you wish
to see their names -- and perhaps share some memories from their
-- just click on The Ships.
P.S. Because searching distant memory is like steaming
through a fogbank -- where things suddenly loom out of the mist -- to find HMCS
Sioux, you will have to join her, as I did, by way of Crusader.