Friday, June 12, 2009

A Ship Named 'Retirement' - Retirement (Part 1)

If you are a small yacht sailor there is a special magic about passing another yacht at sea. It is exciting to do so on a coastal passage for no other reason that compared to passing cars on a road, it is a rare event.

If you want to see a forest of masts, go to a yacht marina. If you want to see a cloud of sail, go watch any big harbour on an Anniversary regatta day or on a weekend yacht race day – but if you want to experience the magic of the close passing of two solitary yachts on a big ocean then you need to go for a sail up the coast or seaward to the outer islands.

The act of passing comes in three stages. First there is the triangle of white on a big horizon. The triangle comes and goes. Then the shape steadies, leaning into the afternoon on a warm breeze, hull down and approaching fast. As the two yachts approach each other the hazy details become clearer and sharper – the patient, long slow focus of the eyes lens now beholds its reward. The approaching vessel pitches and surges in the ocean swell as if in slow motion and then suddenly the eye is alerted to the movement of people as a sail is trimmed or a winch turned.

Then comes the long hesitation as the yachts are abreast of one another. There is the illusion that the movement of each has stopped briefly. It is as though they are suspended briefly in time - then suddenly the last stage as she flashes past in a cloud of white canvas and cascading white water. It is only then that the combined closing speeds of the two yachts is experienced fully – and in a blink of an eye, she is gone, moving slowly but steadily in the other direction.

Last week I resigned from my job of teaching. I have been teaching without a break of any real significance every year since 1974. Retirement has been on the horizon for a long time. This term I have not been teaching at all as I have taken a terms leave to deal with a number of issues and as a preparation of sorts for this transition to retirement.

I leave officially at the end of this term in about three weeks time. In the mean time I am sorting out all the retirement paperwork and other associated stuff. At this point the great hull of retirement is leaping off a wave right in front of me – it is the hesitation phase – she is close enough for me to read the name Retirement in big bold letters on her bow – and I am ready – I am barefooted now in my new cream canvas sailor trousers which I have been hand stitching for close on 35 years, bugger using a belt, I now tie them up sailor style with a long coloured silk scarf – the thousands of coloured threads remind me of all the poems I have read over the years – (the only repository of wisdom that ever made any sense to me). I have my trusty canvas swag with a few things in it – a compass that points north, but mainly metaphors of one sort or another – and I wear an old companion of mine, an old Mariners deep sea blue jersey. Its full of well darned holes to remind me of where I have been – and then as the two yachts momentarily stand still like the sun poised above the Earth at its mid day zenith - I throw my swag and jump!


VenDr said...


Delwyn said...

Hi Alden

My thoughts were encapsulated in VenDr's word of wow!!!

this is a big change for you,
you have been looking toward this moment for a long time I think...

May your path ahead be blessed with many adventures on the high seas and some relaxing 'drop anchors' in quiet peaceful bays to read more anthologies...

I hope we'll see you too on some of your travels.

Do you have any plans as yet?

Happy Days

Janice said...

Congratulations, Alden - retirement is a big step, but you'll love the freedom, I think. I found a poem that kind of sums up what you are in for, hope you like it!

Fair Weather

This level reach of blue is not my sea;
Here are sweet waters, pretty in the sun,
Whose quiet ripples meet obediently
A marked and measured line, one after one.
This is no sea of mine. that humbly laves
Untroubled sands, spread glittering and warm.
I have a need of wilder, crueler waves;
They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

So let a love beat over me again,
Loosing its million desperate breakers wide;
Sudden and terrible to rise and wane;
Roaring the heavens apart; a reckless tide
That casts upon the heart, as it recedes,
Splinters and spars and dripping, salty weeds.

Dorothy Parker

Dan Gurney said...

Another synchronicity. Last March I put my papers in to retire from a long career in education that began in 1975. Unforeseen changes prompted me to retrieve those papers (long story). So for the time being I'm still in the classroom, but, luckily, I'm still enjoying the work I do.

So, are you going to sail Mariner east and north across the Pacific?

Alden said...

Kelvin, Some are telling me that the wow! will turn to ow! as my new modest financial circumstances meet the Juggernaut of the global recession - but to be honest, I have never really cared too much about accumulating a load of materialistic crap (and as it is, for someone who doesn't care much about all that I seem to have accumulated far too much).
I want to travel into the future disgarding much of this stuff and accumulating more of the things that are really important.

Alden said...

Delwyn, yes it is a big change, but not one that has been unforeseen - sometimes things just reach a critical mass and change occurs.
The future I hope holds a lot of travel, a lot of sailing, kayaking, cycling, reading and the development of new interests.
If I pass your way I will certainly call in and say hi!

Alden said...

Janice, I absolutely love that poem. After I read it I went to the backdoor, got a compass bearing and blew you a high velocity kiss, Its winging its way across the Pacific at the moment - to catch it hold up a heavy frying pan, not your cheek otherwise it will bowl you over.
It is a very wise poem and I like it a lot!

Alden said...

Dan, yes we do have much in common on many levels, synchronicity indeed.
Most of my sailing in the immediate future will be locally on this most pleasant of coastlines, but who knows what the future holds - as you know synchronicity, serendipity, chance and providence are co-conspirators!

Katherine said...

Wow! (laughing 'cos it's what Kelvin said too)
I have a wonderful poem for you Auden... will post it soon.
It's about art.
And... well, deep stuff, too.

Alden said...

Katherine - Because I am a teacher (ex teacher), I find your propensity for calling me Auden instead of Alden very interesting - I have found the same sort of thing with very young children - once an idea gets hard wired into the brain it is very difficult to change.
I once had a boy in class who was always writing stories about his weekend job mowing lawns. He always refered to mowing with a Motor Moa. It was a habit I failed to change.
Anyway, you are forgiven, I always just modestly put it down to you confusing my writing with that of W.H.Auden

Delwyn said...

Hi there

I agree the dooverlacky looks great!

Janice said...

clang!! Your kiss has arrived and no worse for travel wear either. It is a very nice kiss indeed, I shall keep it in the fridge. Thank you!

Alden said...

Make sure it doesn't defrost the fridge Janice - and hit it with a big hammer if it doesn't behave.

Alden said...

Delwyn, 'dooverlacky' sounds like a word our parents would have used; it’s slightly familiar to me. Now that you have put it in the public domain I shall use it myself, and someone really must put it in a Thesaurus as a synonym for 'widget'