My White WhaleI looked out at the beautiful blue bay before me, its surface shimmering with the radiance of a thousand diamonds. Up above, the sky was mostly clear, with a few clouds drifting lazily overhead, giving some much-needed shade from the July heat. I stood atop a small hill overlooking the bay, just beside the Shediac Bay Sailing School, its old blue paint thoroughly sun bleached and peeling. Below me were the docks, overladen with boats of all shapes and sizes, three or more to a cleat. Their sails beat happily in the breeze, their hulls rising and falling tranquilly with the rhythm of the tide. Their captains and crews were preoccupied with the prospects of lunch and were thoroughly enjoying their afternoon on land. I tore my gaze away from this peaceful sight and faced my adversary. Before me lay my own boat, a white laser. Even though it lacked both its mast and all its rigging, you could tell it was a force to be reckoned with. Her long sleek hull looked sharp as a knife, ready to slice through a wave as eagerly as a blade through flesh. I looked upon her with both awe and apprehension. Even though this was my first week skippering this vicious little vessel, she had already made it clear that she deemed me unworthy of commanding her, as if she had a mind of her own. So far, I had yet to take her to sea without capsizing, the cool waters of Shediac Bay marking me a failure. Today would be my final opportunity of the week to redeem myself and finally become master of my craft. I would not be bested again.
I quickly scampered down the hill and retrieved my mast from within the small building, weaving in and out of the small crowd of children assembled on the deck enjoying their lunch. With a grunt, I hoisted the mast over my head and carefully slid it into its designated hole in the hull. Next came the rigging, a mess of tangled ropes that could fill even the most veteran of sailors with dread. After several agonizing minutes of knot-tying, untangling and, admittedly, a good deal of cursing on my part, she was finally rigged. I promptly dragged her down to the docks atop her trailer and launched her into the waves. It was time to set sail.
With the sun to my back and another burning in my soul, I set off from the dock. I felt like Captain Ahab, relentlessly pursuing the monstrous white whale Moby Dick in his mighty ship the Pequod, except in my case, my monster and my boat were one and the same. I yanked on the main sheet to trim the sail to better suit the direction of the wind, and it was as if I had stepped on the gas, for my boat lunged forward like a tiger, the sheer acceleration taking me by such surprise that I nearly fell out of the boat. I felt a devilish smile curl my lips. Alright, I thought. So that’s how it is. I gripped the tiller and pointed my bow towards the practice course set up earlier that day. Let’s see what you can do.
As I approached the first turn of the course, I visualized what I would have to do, every little detail from my body position to my hand movements. I was ready. Steeling my nerves, I pushed the tiller as far away from my body as I could, initiating the turn. Simultaneously, I leaned as far back as I could, my torso dangling precariously off the side of the boat, which allowed me to turn much more quickly. I felt the boat start to tip over, like some malevolent see-saw. This is where I had failed so many times before, what resulted in me capsizing. This is what I had been waiting for. With a practiced agility that surprised myself, I darted across to the other side. I hiked out of the boat as I had done before to give myself as much leverage as I possibly could. For a few tense seconds, the boat was still, as if deciding whether or not to allow me this small victory. Then, ever so tantalizingly slow, it flattened out. A perfect turn!
I whooped and hollered at my achievement, the small success bringing on a euphoric adrenaline rush. After a long week of struggling to complete the most basic of tasks with my Laser, I had finally done what I set out to do. Alright, I thought. Now, to do that exact same turn for the next three hours. Perfect. With that, I continued on with the course, my spirits high and my confidence higher than it had been all week.