At Anchor

At Anchor

    “When I saw you I fell in love,
    and you smiled because you knew”
    William Shakespeare

Her name was “Isabella” and it was rare if she wasn’t the finest classic beauty wherever she traveled. A beautifully designed wooden schooner, her sleek lines and perfectly maintained woodwork belied the more than seventy years and thousands of ocean miles that had passed under her keel. On a sunny day it was possible to become blinded by the shine of her varnished teak, the sparkling brass appointments like jewelery on a woman. Her winches were bronze, the compass binnacle a work of art itself, it’s leaded glass panes forming a protective cone over the secrets of north and south, looking like a wizard’s scepter. Yes, she was a beautiful yacht and her name suited her perfectly, but Isabella had another name, a name that told of what she did as much as what she was. Among those who knew, she was called “The Love Boat.”

“Isabella’s” alternative name had nothing to do with the saccharine 70s television show and everything to do with love, for quite simply, nearly everyone who sailed aboard her fell in love. Not only was “Isabella” beautiful, but like so many wooden yachts, she had a personality and a soul all her own. The spirit of “Isabella” wafted about, above decks and below in a benevolent, erotically charged amorphic cloud. Admirers would note that the people on board the elegant yacht were extraordinary physical specimens, complimenting the beauty of the vessel that bore them. What they didn’t, and couldn’t know, was that the beauty of her crew was something that had blossomed after they had come on board. Not a one of them had been ugly in any sense of the word, but their looks had not been remarkable in any sense prior to their arrival on “Isabella.” If an album of before and after pictures had been kept, the changes would have been astonishing by any measure, but only in the way that before and after photos nearly always are. When observed at close range her crew appeared to glow with good health and happiness, this was no accident. On board “Isabella” they bloomed like flowers planted suddenly in very fertile soil.

Even those whose time was regretfully brief on “Isabella” discovered changes in themselves both physically and mentally. For no reason in particular, most who were lucky enough to find themselves on board smiled nearly all the time, often without realizing it till they happened to come upon an image of themselves, reflected perhaps in the mirror created by the polished brass bell. Women might notice a few less wrinkles and a bit more amorous intent, men the same except for an extra urge and satisfaction in raising the sails of “Isabella.” Taking a turn at a winch, and later eagerly offering to assist in furling the sails at the end of a days sojourn became an honor. The crew were well aware that their guests generally seemed to become healthier and more eager to participate in the physical aspects of sailing “Isabella” the longer they were on board. This didn’t strike any of them as unusual at all, in fact they felt that it was perfectly natural. Unlike so many of their brethren the crew of “Isabella” were always eager to include their guests in the sailing tasks. They would nod to each other happily when one of them mastered a bowline or understood that lines must always be coiled so that they may run free and standing on them is just not done.

When “Isabella” entered a port she naturally turned heads. Her skilled crew would often sail into her slip, deftly securing her docklines silently without the aid of the engine, just a few hand signals between the crew, a nod of the chin and the task was done. Crowds would form to marvel at this feat of seamanship, rarely performed with a yacht of her size. Shaking their heads in disbelief as the yacht was made secure, muttering under their breath, the onlookers would wander back to their seats at the quayside cafe where they would argue about how it had been done.

At night the crew would often hang lanterns from her furled booms and her Captain would play his guitar, singing songs of love in many languages, his lyrical voice floating through the harbour, whispering between the moorings. Fine food and drink were served and if you were invited to join them onboard you were lucky indeed.

So it was that I was invited for an evening on Isabella that would change the course of my life. I fell in love with her, and in a few short days I was living aboard, sleeping within her hull through which I could hear the mournful calls of faraway whales.

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Part One