Swan 44/071 'Cadeau'
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In the drizzly winter of 1999 I found myself alone on a 25 years old sailing boat in Lake Union, Seattle, United States. Such event would scarcely titillate anyone’s curiosity and would not deserve any written record, was it not for the fact that a. I am not an American, b. I had barely sailed a boat like that before, let alone on the Pacific Ocean and c. I had no clear idea of what I was getting myself into. How, but especially why this did happen is a long story that the attentive reader will be able to nimble from the lines themselves. It should suffice for now that I was then in a period of my life when I was still unable to find a comic side in romanticism.

            It goes without saying that one should never operate heavy machinery without knowing exactly how to do so and hoping to succeed unpunished. But the close proximity of the object of our dreams is no incentive to prudence, and a bright optimism was even capable of blowing away the perpetual drizzle embracing Seattle. The obstacles ahead remained numerous, and the sole fact of being the proud owner of the vessel in question was surely a pro but by no means a counterbalance to the cons. The main hitch I had to face was the absence of hands. Modern sailboats come with a series of gadgets primarily designed to ease the handling of the lines which, when correctly trimmed, pull the vessel in the right direction.  Cadeau, for such is the name of the old lady, had, with the notable ecception of the autopilot, none of it. A modern cruise boat may boast something like 3 halyards, 6 sheets and, say, other 5 or 6 regulations: all these lines come in different colours, run through a battery of stoppers that inable the trimming one at a time in swift sequence, and terminate in 4 self tailing  winches, all set around a wide cockpit. I had to deal with 10 halyards, 8 sheets, endless regulations, most of them white in colour, going through numberless blocks but no stoppers and ending in an extensive cultivation of 13 winches, only 3 of which self-tailing, spread more or less all around the deck. How to deal with them by means of only two hands, both attached to a single body, mine, was a metter of serious thought. Unfortunately I knew nothing of the subtle art of recruiting crew in those days, and few timid, ill-aimed and exceedingly confined efforts brought proportional results.


            What to do and where to go?

At first it was all about significance and earnestness. Flippancy was long to be achieved and the track led through a simplicity I could not grasp yet. In the meantime I could not agree better with Raymond Williams when he wrote:

‘…it’s no longer from the practice of community but from being a wanderer that the instinct of fellow-feeling is derived. Thus an essential isolation and silence and loneliness become the carriers of nature and community against the rigours, the cold abstinence, the selfish ease of ordinary society’
                                                                                  The country and the City

Indeed my association with fellow humans had been rather intense in the previous years, resulting in a spiderweb of liaisons that were mostly businesslike, rarely avoidable and seldom agreable. A nearly perfect journey in the Canadian Arctic some months before did nothing to deter the balance of my preferences to lean towards places where population density was supposed to be scarce and the territory vast.
The we also have to record a certain liking I had for mist.  It all belonged to the carachter, really. A convinced, although merely self-diagnosed, sufferer of DFS, my mind had always felt a longing for fallish atmospheres of fogs and rains, of mists and drizzles. Leaning palms over white beaches and turquoise waters had never been my sort of screensaver, that was usually on the winterish side, possibly a nice forest covered in snow in the declining lights of winter, images that could nearly transport the sound of the thin wind among the branches or the barking of a dog in the crisp air.
One doesn’t need to know by heart every single Lonely Planet guide to understand that Alaska could be a perfect destination. The list of drawbacks was long, though. First, even if that huge state is nearly three times the size of Ukraine and has similar climate, fate put most women, and nearly all the beautiful ones, in the smaller state. Second, Alaska is nearly a whole Mediterranean Sea away from Lake Union, not to mention that I had to get out of the locks as well if I wanted to dip Cadeau’s keel in saltwater. Third, as we already know, was the lack of hands.
A shrewd reader have probably already got the way I could follow through all these cons, viz. to find one of the thousands eager SWF around, willing and able to go AWOL, and list her as multi-purpose crew. But, alas, blame the fact that my marriage was just over, and again that my recruiting techniques were non-existent, I decided to leave alone. Strangely enough the art of recruiting crew is not much different than the subtle talent of pulling the gentler sex. Being the latter flair slightly rusted after eight years of peaceful relationship, the main device of attraction, that is the capacity of opening oneself up, was dormant. Destiny, I thought in earnest, wants me to cast off alone.
The probable upcoming devastating effects of this this foolhardy decision were greatly mitigated by a the smart choice of remaining nailed to the dock for a week, spent in studying the new thing I had moved all my personal effects into. Unfortunately I cannot claim the merit of this wise resolution unless my morals had been relaxed to the point of lying to myself. In fact abundant reasons to stay there made themselves evident during the first restless night on my specially tailored mattress, in the form of a very strong gale. The town awoke with a severed link to the outside world, having the Redmond to Seattle bridge been dislodged by the wind, and I awoke with the severe impression that my choice of waters to learn how to sail had been slightly precipitous, if