Some sail to travel, others travel to sail.
The lake near where I was staying did not figure on a local map but this wasn’t about the lake’s size. Always a crew member on others’ boats, I at last had one to myself. This sail boat was mine all mine for entire three days. There was no time to waste.
I reached the lake as sunrise threw dim light at tall mountain trees with the moon still in sight. The warm vapor streams drawn by the cold morning air rose from the lake’s surface. They were ascending in the spiraling fashion – many such spirals throughout the lake. They warmed me up as well, taking any doubts I had about my endeavor away with the chill.
At such an early hour I was not the only one here. A few fishing boats were lurking in the lake’s corners. Feeling at ease I let my feet thread warm water. Just then I heard a loud splash somewhere uncomfortably close.
Lately, rumors of a predatory fish were making ripples through this peaceful lakeside community. Lakesmen were convinced that someone had released a large fish into the water and it was menacing indigenous lake inhabitants ever since. One lifeguard swore he has seen it ram a goose. There was even a $150 reward posted for its capture. The anglers displayed stripped off bait hooks and all-together cut off lines which they declared was the work of the super fish. Far from being served on a dinner plate, it became a part of local folklore. “One day, legend has it, a fisher child will arise to catch the monster fish,” some parents told their little ones in an improvised bedside story.
The trees whispered that it was high time for sailing. Following the rain fall of last night, the wind forcefully shook off water from the leaves. The boat’s rapid heeling caught me off guard. I heard that it’s fun to capsize a sunfish boat but thinking of fresh water bacteria (a beloved summer topic of the American press) potentially waiting for me on the lake’s bottom, I was not so eager.
I flew past fishing boats like a meteor. There was no sign of life on the part of the boatmen. With their eyes fixed at the bubbly floats they could be easily taken for mannequins. That’s probably what they want the fish to think, I figured.
Suddenly a loud roar shattered the rule of quiet. Anticipating nothing less than a jet landing on my head, I ducked instinctively. A second later two dump trucks drove by on the mountain road. Only once, when my car got trapped in Brooklyn’s Labor Day parade, had I seen a truck that was that spotlessly clean. The loud sounds those heavy machines were imposing on the serene landscape there are all but a small part of noisy Brooklyn.
A summer day replaced a summer morning. Under the overzealous watch of the teenage lifeguards, the beach gradually filled up. The lifeguards divided the already minuscule swimming area into two parts trying to block people who lacked an Olympic swimming stroke from entering a deeper area. This was quite a contrast with lifeguards at Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach who won’t stop you from swimming to Europe as long as you keep moving.
The wind in the afternoon became a shadow of what it was before. Despite being fully under sail, my boat stalled. It took me some time to solve this mystery. It turned out that the boat’s tiller was being held by long stems of lilies. There was no other way to free the boat but to pull the flowers out of water. Adorned now with a lovely bouquet of green lilies – a reward for the first day of sailing – my boat started to move again.
Stas Holodnak, originally from Ukraine, lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York. He enjoys sailing, rowing and swimming. He hopes one day to explore the Amazon River and live to write about it. Links to his essays can be found here.