Adrift Between Missions

My ship has sunk. I’m sitting in my dinghy which has become my life raft. Around me the ocean is empty, blue and calm.

…the ocean is empty, blue and calm… A photo I took from my dinghy while sailing my sailboat “Sea Bird” 65 days from the Cape of Good Hope back to the Virgin Islands. Luckily my boat didn’t sink because…..

…it would have been a long row back to shore. Here, the approximate location of where the above photo was taken (Photo Google Maps)

I’m just out there sandwiched between sky and sea bobbing in a rowboat. Spiraling into the inky abyss beneath me, the vessel that has carried me across the world’s great oceans.

Doesn’t matter why she sank. She’s gone.

Down through the water column she settles, from warm water to cold and on and on. Way past the sun’s reach down to where the pressure builds and the fish look alien and aren’t worth catching.

She crumples, ruptures her seams. Spills her guts and they start floating back toward our closest friendly star.

Next to me in my row boat, a wine bottle pops to the surface. Pages from the ship’s journal – buoyed by the grease I’ve pressed into the grubby pages – rise like jelly fish. The white bits? Oh yeah, that bag of rice from Rodrigues Island in the Indian Ocean.

And I’ll be adrift in wine bottles, journal pages and rice – my life raft surrounded by the remnants of what was, until she sank, my vessel.

Okay, that’s an analogy of my life as I see it now. I’ve never had a ship sink out from under me. I don’t even know if the hydrophysics of my deep sea pressure analogy is correct. Would anything every float back to the surface once it reached a certain depth?

Still, the description captures a feeling.

I recently had a grand wagon voyage. Now I’m home and things are, well, sorta normal. Okay. I’m feeling a little adrift. Between missions. But life’s like that, right? From time to time, I’m sure you’ve felt like you’re just sorta bobbing along. Right?

To be a little clearer, mule Polly and I recently spent 5 months traveling across Newfoundland in our wagon interviewing folks about things cod, iceberg and puffin. (You can read more in the archives. That’s where you’ll learn helpful things like why it never pays to lie to your mule and some stuff on icebergs. Also, what it’s like for your wagon to be crashed in to by an inattentive driver).

Polly and her cart north of Reef Cove, on Newfoundland’s North West coast.

Then Polly and I came back to Carolina and the ordinariness of day to day life sucked me back in: I scattered my mother’s ashes. My mom, Lislott Harberts, died last August.

I wrote stories for I planted a winter garden and celebrated my dad’s 87th birthday.

I checked my email.

I was starting to feel a bit at sea. Like my adventurous life of wagons and ocean voyaging had been replaced by, well, responsibility. The sea was blue. The ocean was calm. There was a life raft bobbing peacefully on the surface. I was in it.

Then the email from Matt.

I’d met Matt Tucker on The Rock. Polly and I were camped out behind a fish flake, a wood structure used to dry cod. Matt’s a film maker. We got to talking and while I cooked caplin (a Newfoundland fish) on my wood stove, his crew shot some footage.

Then we parted ways.

I didn’t hear from Matt for months. ‘Til the email came.

And there it was. A tiny, perfect, just-over-a-minute long movie. A short film that captured my 5 month trip as crisply as a poem.

It came as a welcome reprieve from the ordinariness of my daily life. A figurative wine bottle popping to the surface next to a life raft. Within reach. Something to give you a buzz until help, in the form of another grand adventure, arrives.

So here’s a glimpse into my beloved wagon world. A glance back to another time on a foggy island far away. A peep at what drives my world.

Maybe, if you’re feeling drifty like me, it’ll nudge us both back on course.

(Thanks to Matt Tucker, his crew and Target Marketing & Communications Inc. for putting together this great clip. Hell, sure makes me want to return to the island of screech, beach and water heater moonshine!)

2013-06-29 20:16:14

The beautiful photo of the blue, blue doldrums makes me think of this quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery…
“ If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Happy sailing, of one form or another.

Linda Fritz
2013-07-01 04:36:42

Hey Bernie..

Well it has been a long time since we have seen that friendly smile of yours, but my family thinks of you often with fond memories. Just checking up on you in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep…. just to see what mischief you might be up to. Hope things are going well! Sending you warm greetings from the Fritz Family and Hildreth, Nebraska. 🙂

Jennifer McCollum
2013-07-02 19:54:57

Enjoyed reading this so much and hope Polly is well. Hope you’re well, too. Wonderful writing, wonderful photos. Thank you.

2013-07-02 20:42:15

Great hearing from everyone out there. Just returned from trimming 13 mules, a horse and Smokey the burro. A not too subtle reminder that, though we may feel drifty, hooves still need trimming, manes need roaching and a bored burro will always, always, find a way to escape. Cheers! Bernie

Capt. Nat
2013-07-12 22:14:21

Hey Bernie! Glad to see you’re still amongst the livin’! Things are goin’ OK down here in the swamps. Been workin’ on the new version of the Huckleberry and tryin’ get a little income to come my way. It’s a slow process and I’m kinda sittin’ in my own dulldrum place, but as usual things don’t stay the same for folks like us for very long. Drop me a line or give me a call my number is 386-329-5212. It’s a Skype number so if you got it we can actually talk face to face.

Take care old friend! Fair winds and easy trails!

Capt. Nat

2013-07-13 06:59:43

Howdy Swamp Man of DeBary (aka Capt Nat)! Great hearing from you down there in the depths of Florida’s skeeter and cooter country. I’m still trying to get it in my head you’re not on the road with your wagon and mules. No more Whinny-Bray-Go hitched fire-wagon style to three gamey mules. No more Pete the Pot boiling up crabs then serving chamber duty. Still, it sounds like swamp life is treating you well. Sure look forward to the new version of the Huckleberry. I hear you featured in a documentary filmed by a top shelf outfit. Now I just have to get a TV so I can watch it. Cheers amigo. Bernie

Connie Cassidy
2013-07-26 04:22:15

Hello Bernie,

I’ve been an admirer of your writing, quietly and on the sidelines, for some time now. I read Bob Skelding’s site as well. You two are such men of action! It is always a treat to see a new entry. I think that most of us, out here, spend much of our lives living inside our own heads. We want to believe if our circumstances were just a little different, we too could be People of Action. My dreams are so real to me, I can nearly touch them, smell them. But those calm, blue responsibilities keep them bobbing just out of reach. So with that depressing thought, I just want to encourage you to keep looking for that next inspiring mission. You were never meant to be closed inside your head for too long. I christen thee, “Storm Chaser”!

2013-07-30 22:53:23

Connie. Best of luck getting to all those dreams that duty and responsibility keep pushing juuuust out of reach… Life just ebbs and flows that way. And sometimes we just get stuck in the slack tide ‘til the currents get flowing again. As to the “Storm Chaser” title, I’ll take it! (as long as I’m in my 5,500 pound ’92 diesel Dodge and not my home made canvas wagon…..). Cheers. Bernie.

2013-08-14 13:58:58

Just stopped by your RiverEarth to see what you’re up to and enjoyed the new stories; especially your boat stowaway advice. Loved this Newfoundland video too. Your advice is 100% true. Thanks for your fun stories and best of luck devising your next mission. (I’m between adventures too but next launch is becoming clear). Stay strong, Ken

2013-08-14 17:44:07

Howdy Colvin Ken. Hey, so where are you anchored these days? So does “next launch” mean the get-the-keel-wet kind or the New Chapter kind? Sure look forward to seeing what you come up with next. Keep your gaff peaked and your leech roachy. Bernie


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