Sunday, April 21, 2024


In My Dream

I was placed in command, by default and by necessity, of a large sailing ship as it was making course in the Tropics, on a close reach.  I knew how to sail a dinghy.  I knew how to sail a ship of this scale in principle; in fact, I had no idea which line controlled the end of which yard, which halyard had a purpose to raise or lower a particular sail among the fifteen at my disposal (main and foremasts each carrying a main, lower tops'l, upper tops'l, topgallant and royal, and the mizzen supporting a spanker, topgallant and royal; two headsails.)  What's more, the mate was dead and I had earned no authority before the other men.

First I had to ascertain where we were and where we were going, at roughly what speed.  With luck, I thought, we could hold our course until we came to an island or an inhabited coast.  There I could at least bring her up into the wind, wait for her to stall out completely, and drop anchor.  The sails and the lines would be a mess, but perhaps that could be sorted out at leisure.

Indeed, this is what happened, and as we were sorting the mess, a captain's gig rowed out with a new "master and commander," short, befuddled expression, bad teeth.  My personal futility, in other words, gave way to a more generalized one.

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