?> CampbellStories.com : Sailing


By Chloe Campbell
September 2006

Sandy Hill Camp edges up to the Elk River and is hidden in the woods next to Elk Neck State Park. I look forward to going there every summer, and one activity that I always sign up for is the big sailboat ride. The Odea is a forty-foot sailboat that belongs to Sandy Hill. Feeling small walking on its great white hull comforts me because I know that I will not have to help with the sailing. The extent of work for the campers on the Odea is watching out for the boom. Heavy canvas sails that look like they could never fly soar and carry us along with them. The breeze that permanently resides on the water plays with my hair and brushes the pounding sunrays off my arms. I think all the elements of nature have reserved the Odea to be their stage to show their gentlest moods.

The enormity of the sailboat masks the jolt of the detachment from the buoy as we take off. Then, I begin to settle into the smooth bobbing along the waves. The brown Elk River glows bronze from the afternoon sun, and I can smell the water breezes of healthy mud and seaweed. I even open my mouth to breathe in the wind as it awakens the sails.

I lean on my hands and stretch my legs out, feeling the pressure on my palms from the deck’s uneven surface that’s meant for grip. The classic white of the deck clashes with the moldy life jackets we have to wear and their brazen colors of yellow, red, and blue. I wiggle my painted toes over the side of the boat, and their movement coupled with the roll and glint of the water makes me feel dizzy.

“Watch the boom!” one of the counselors shouts. The thick metal rod swings right above my head, and the Odea begins to lean like a wrestler about to hit the mat. My legs slide further and further off; and just when my toes are about to kiss the water’s surface, I scoot myself back on to the deck. It proves to be somewhat of a struggle with my stiff lifejacket hindering me. The protruding buckles provide no torso flexibility, like a kitten stuffed from nursing.

I change my position to lean against the sturdy mast for the sail back to camp. My eyelids drift lethargically up and down in time with the rocking of the boat. My giant fiberglass cradle on a darkening river is finally lulling me to sleep. Only the occasional crack of the sail from an unexpected gust holds me from the threshold. A wave of the scent of my shampoo cascades over my forehead, propelled by the breeze behind me. If I turn my head aside, I can eavesdrop on the wind’s quiet conversation with the contour of my ear.

Since I am facing the bow, I hear faint voices of the crew from the stern instructing each other to turn about. I sense only the faintest amount of grief about going back to camp. The boom slices the benevolent air one more time and bounces on its cables slightly as if cringing at its rude interruption. I can now see the yellow-tan beach of Sandy Hill’s waterfront. As land confronts the Odea again, the wind can no longer reach or breathe life into the sails, and the tall canvas motors lay slack. My feet detect the pinch and poke of the dimpled deck, and I walk back into reality as the water loses the last of its brassiness.