In Venice, a Young Boatman Steers a Course of His Own
By Thomas Schmalfeldt
I’ve been a sailor since I was four. My father and I used to own a boat called the Sea Lion. It was a little old sloop with a homemade wooden rudder. It was so small you had to row with one hand.
I’ve made about seventy-five trips on the Sea Lion. From Maine to Florida, across the Atlantic Ocean, to Spain. From Mexico to Panama. To Bermuda. And now we are sailing across the Pacific to San Francisco.
It’s beautiful sailing. We make the call at sunset, and my wife will say, “I have to go to the bathroom,” and everyone gets off to go do it.
I’m on the captain’s watch when the first of the sun’s rays come through the porthole into my cabin. They shine like a spotlight, and the room gets so quiet. It’s time to turn on the radio, and the radio’s been playing the same song for the past twenty minutes. Now I’m ready to go, but I listen to the radio, because I am very interested in radio.
A few minutes later, I hear the radio say, “Turn on the radio and learn what’s going on in the world.”
So I turn on the radio. I listen, and soon I learn about how the Gulf Stream moves water up north so that ice can be moved in the winter and fish can be taken off the fishless coast of the U.S.
I learn that it’s the ice age, and when we’re going to have the ice age again. And I learn about how there are two poles – one for the north and the other for the south – and it’s time for me to go south.
I turn the radio off, and my wife comes into the cabin and says, “We’ve got to go.” I say, “Now?” but we’ve come very far to take a break from the radio, and we go to the cabin, and we fall asleep.
I wake up to the sun shining through the portholes in my cabin, and I listen to the sound of