Friday, May 27, 2005

The Sea, pt. I

In the summer of 1999 one of my Amazon buddies invited me to go sailing with him in the Puget Sound. He was a prototypical pre-IPO Amazonian: he never finished college, he did things on his own terms (which would cost him his job during Amazon’s First Great Bloodletting shortly thereafter), and he was astonishingly smart. That summer was two years after Amazon went public, near the peak of the stock’s ridiculous apex, so those pre-IPO types like my friend were also very, very rich. He lived on his sailboat, moored somewhere on the Salmon Bay or maybe Lake Union.

We cruised under motor power down the bay – actually a canal connecting Lake Union and Lake Washington with the Puget Sound – to the sea. Out past the channel makers and buoys, we cut the motor and unfurled the sails. Once underway he taught me the basics of sailing: they’re not ropes, for Christ’s sake, they’re lines. One hand for you, one for the boat. And of course the seafarer’s prime directive: the captain’s word is law.

We tacked a bit, generally on a northwestern course. It was a gorgeous day by Seattle standards – sunny, in the 80’s in town but cooler on the water. There were plenty of other boats out as well: sloops and pleasure craft out for the afternoon; huge yachts heading due north to the islands or maybe Vancouver. A gigantic menacing navy ship headed south, down to Bainbridge. The air was sharp and clear, and I tasted salt from the spray breaking over the bow. Something moved in the water not five feet off starboard.

“What was that?” I asked. My friend just grinned.

A dolphin sprung completely out of the water, perfectly parallel to, and at precisely the same speed as, the boat. Two more. A third, a fourth, and by this time I couldn’t tell one from the other or how many there were. We sliced through the water with dolphins leaping at our side, oddly expressive creatures even in midair. I’ve had moments of joy in my life, and I’ve felt intrinsically connected to nature plenty of times in the mountains, but this was primal happiness that I haven’t experienced since. It lasted maybe a minute; the dolphins simply disappeared.

Back on shore we had dinner at a marina. Someone mentioned that John John’s plane had been found. Out in the bay, water lapped at the pilings.


Blogger Tamara said...

Great story.

10:35 AM  

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