I only saw her once, but in the space of a few hours time she changed my life forever. God! What a dream! She is tall, sleek, and fast. She carries fifteen thousand square feet of sail, and she will make twenty-one knots in a good breeze.
I was standing at the helm. The wheel in my hands had the feel of great wealth and power. The sun was high and the sails were full. The wind was dead astern and the colors of the telltale shown brightly as it streamed ahead. Gulls wheeled about the tops and yards, and their calls blended with the sounds of stretching rope, the tink of brass hardware, and the slip of water against the hull.
I was alone on the ship, and quite content. The wind that filled the sails ruffled the sleeves of my white shirt and black pant legs. My boots were softly polished. No sword lay at my side to disturb this tranquil scene.
The great Pacific rollers made mountains and valleys of the ocean, and the deck gently rolled to bow and stern as we crossed each in turn. There was no land or island to break the horizon, and I was well pleased.
I lashed the wheel to a ring in the deck to hold our course and took a turn around the deck. Moving up on the starboard, my eyes followed the sheet lines up to the sails. The warm salt air brought the scents of a thousand spices up out of the hold. I scanned the horizon, but saw no other ships. Bright cumulus clouds dotted the blue sky.
The belaying pins in the fife rails reminded me of soldiers lined up for inspection, and I smiled to myself at the thought. The hatches were open, but I did not look in them, for I knew the cargo was safe. I had left the doors to below deck open to allow fresh air into the quarters.
At the bow, I leaned over to watch dolphin playing in the bow wake. I love these magnificent creatures, and I was glad that the dolphin striker did not dip down far enough to frighten them. A luffing in the jib echoed that of my shirtsleeves. The sun had moved ahead in its course. It was now late afternoon.
I left the playing dolphin and continued back along the port. The anchor was secure in the catís head, and the rope lay coiled nearby. Somewhere in the far distance a whale breached and blew a geyser of mist into the air. The wind had slowed and the great rollers were lower, calmer than before as the sky lost some of its light. The rolling had stopped and the deck remained level.
As the sun set toward the bow, the full moon rose astern. Colors faded from my view. Oddly, as the light faded from the sky, the ocean grew lighter, as though underwater lights were coming on. I stood amidships at the port rail and gazed into the deep.
I could see several fathoms into the water. I marveled at the sea life as they played out a ballet in three dimensions. Here were tarpon, mackerel, shark, and ray. Once I saw a large sea turtle, but he disappeared into the depths. Somewhere in the distance I could hear whale song. The gulls had left, and had taken their song with them.
I returned to the wheel and loosed its binding. The wind had calmed, but now the sails were full with the moonlight. The telltale, once brightly colored, now lay mottled and gray against the canvas. A million stars dotted the black sky. As I took the wheel in my hands, and incredible feeling of peace came over me. We made an easy turn to port and the ship took on a special quality.
Upon completing the turn, the ship lightened and rose. She did not so much lift out of the water, but the ocean fell away slowly beneath her. Our new course would take us to Alnilam, the middle star in Orionís belt. Thus would we begin our exploration of this present universe.
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