Category Archives: At Sea

Fog Horn

Two hundred miles south of Newfoundland, we sail into a fog bank and the captain sounds the ship’s horn. It is a beautiful, low bass tone, sounding every few seconds as we move through the fog.

Looking over the railing at the melded gray expanse of water and sky, listening to the hypnotic resonance of the ocean liner’s horn, I consider how civilized it is for a powerful nautical behemoth to warn smaller weaker ships when it is moving around in the fog.

I think of all the times I have collided with unfortunate experiences when my senses and perceptions-—or someone else’s–were compromised. I think of all the times I have drifted around in a mist of my own vaporous emotions, stumbling into one negative relationship after another.

If only all of life’s dangerous entities came with warnings—bells, whistles, horns, sirens, beeps. If only we humans were honest enough to alert each other with as much grace as oceangoing vessels.

If only we could know our own dimensions, our own strength and potential to harm, and be able to say to one another, when necessary and true: You had better stay back, change course, let me go, sail away with all of your strength into open seas and fairer skies.




This morning finds me walking the wide deck of the grand ocean liner Queen Mary. I am sailing in the North Atlantic somewhere just east of Nova Scotia on the second day of a seven day journey to Southampton, England.

The weathered teak deck is spotless. The varnished steamer chairs face the ocean in perfect lines. I look past the rails to the pale wash of blue sky streaked with soft clouds, the cobalt waves dotted with flashes of white foam.

Strong pure nature invites me to find my own strength. I am grateful for the buffeting of the chilly six a.m. wind, the serenity of the deck, the graceful intelligence of the ship’s design.

A gentleman in a yellow rain suit aims his power washer at the painted white rails and the large plate glass windows facing on the deck. I wonder if he would agree to scrub me as well. I could use a good washing.

Already I have fallen off the wagon and, sullied and ashamed, climbed back on again. The temptations on board were too much for my fragile recovery: a half dozen saloons, cigar lounge, champagne bar, casino. One mojito at the outdoor Sail Away Party and three months of sobriety disappeared into the famous Atlantic fog. Then came wine, menthol cigarettes (ugggh), quarter slots and hopeless flirting with an indifferent Englishman.

Relapse is shameful and depressing. One drink and my year of sobering up seemed to have evaporated more rapidly than the wash water on the deck.

The early morning, however, brings a new and welcome perspective. Though sheepish and suffused with self-contempt, I am grateful that i did not drink on the second night and have started my recovery anew. I am thankful for my Higher Power who led me away from my self-annilation onto this lovely promenade and the embrace of a pure bright bracing blue day.

I breathe in the sea and feel love, feel hope.


Posted by on June 13, 2011 in At Sea, Meditations on Nature