Like a kid struggling through their vegetables so they can have their cake, it’s hard to be forced to take a needless diversion. That’s what the extended loop under the bottom of Sweden felt like as we set out south for the summer, with our ultimate goal of the great northern latitudes of Norway. But vegetables get a bad rap.
This region, referred to as Skåne, is bordered by the Baltic Sea to the East and South, the Øresund to the West, and the Kattegat Strait to the Northwest. The region’s robust agricultural history would have been a traditional pull for our curiosity had it not been a route cursed with contrary winds. A year earlier, when we had sailed north from Germany past Bornholm, we had savored the frothy western breezes as we set our sights on our first landfall in Sweden. Now, we had to prepare for a waiting game, or a long slog with diesel fumes, as we fought against the headwinds. As luck would have it, a light northerly breeze blowing offshore left us with flat water and a full day of sun to navigate to the island of Hanö.
I used to be afraid to admit that I was afraid. Maybe it was a gender thing. Boys aren’t supposed to show fear. Or maybe it was a peer pressure thing. Siting around the campfire listening to ghost stories is not the time to show your sensitive side. Or maybe it was a parent thing. Letting a child see your fear only amplifies their fright. But then I heard someone talk about fear management. Alas, there was finally a sign that maybe it was OK to have these feelings. Maybe even not just OK but beneficial.
I know that some people think our choice of adventure sailing is too risky. That is, the people other than the people that think we are on a summer-long vacation of sunbathing and cocktail sipping. It is somewhat true. Not the vacation part, mind you, but the risky part. We live on a 25,000 pound floating platform that is one hole away from succumbing to the forces of gravity trying everyday to pull it under. Unlike the seafarers of yesteryear, Karen and I do know how to swim, but gravity would be more than happy to take us too if we were to go overboard. And while 25,000 pounds sounds big, it’s mere roadkill to the massive freighters whose paths we cross. We also navigate around rocky outcroppings sharp enough to break apart our boat faster than a wrecking ball. And those are the rocks we can see. For the ones lurking underneath the surface, we have to trust our electronics, the often decade-old work of survey crews, and the limited utility of polarized sunglasses.
I could not stop checking the newsfeed every hour. Like so many, I was captivated by the announcement of a submersible exploring the depths of the Titanic, lost with five crew onboard. But why was I hooked on their story? People die everyday, every hour, plenty in a gruesome manner. Why should I care about five more people, these five people in particular. Of course there was the uncertainty of the crew at the inky depth of 3800 meters below they surface of the Atlantic, desperately trying to hold on to the slippery bonds of life. I didn’t want to get caught up in the livestream theatrics of it all. ‘The Truman Show’ was showmanship worthy of my attention and praise. But here were real live human beings, with ten fingers and ten toes, just like their mommas had hoped for. The graduating senior who drank too much at prom and drove a car full of buddies into oncoming traffic is tragic, no doubt. So much potential lost, so many questions to answer. Yet here, knowing that there could be a submersible crew at the bottom of the ocean struggling for their life, while my own struggle was simply running out of bread for the day’s sandwich, felt deeply troubling. And then to learn that they apparently were banging on the hull every thirty minutes in a crude underwater cry for help.