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  • Laura Owens

Surviving the storm

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

It’s not all sea creatures

and sunsets you know…

The camera doesn’t capture

the visceral nature

of the wind and waves,

the pressure and gravity on your bones

as the boat sways and lurches

Waves breaking against the hull,

dumping icy water down your back

salt spray stinging your eyes and cheeks

It doesn’t capture

the white knuckles

and jamming of feet

Things taken for granted on solid ground - the comforting ritual of making tea

to warm your shivering soul

turns into a practice of sheer will

and Shiva-like skill

Fingertips grasp the countertop

as you sway like a sober, drunken sailor

leaving one hand to pour boiling water

into a sliding cup, in the dark

Drawers crash open,

a kettle flies through space

spilling its wares onto paper charts

You don’t know it yet,

but when dawn breaks

and the storm subsides

you’ll pick your way hazily

through the dried seaweed and debris

towards the sanctuary of your sodden bed

The camera can’t communicate

the stolen sleep that

leaves your body jittery like a

and your mind as clear as tar

The suppressed anxiety

of your only crew mate falling over board

while you’re below deck

in a shadowy slumber

The dread of climbing

the companionway stairs

to take up your watch

to find no one there

The camera can’t convey

the intensity it takes to watch

instruments and waves

with hawk-like attention,

striving to find solace in

predicting the un-predictable

Squinting at the tightly packed

rows of coloured rope

muted by the confusion of darkness,

like criminals in a line up

the wrong choice could bear

deadly consequences

Trying hopelessly

to block out tales

from countless books

of disasters at sea

React quickly but carefully,

don’t guillotine your fingers

in the heavily tensioned lines

that strain against

the immense power of the wind

Imagine, if you can,

an endless, inky-thick darkness,

open ocean

no point of reference

except the tiny red and green lights

up ahead, either side of the bow

All other light source killed

to preserve night vision

watching intently for shapes and lights

that might emerge from the shadowy night

Not only are you battling the elements

you’re also tasked with not slamming headlong into another vessel

or floating jetsom

that could entangle the prop

and leave you entirely

at the mercy of the storm


both almost impossible to make out

amongst the white wash of

bewildered waves

A change in the energy

two weather systems merge

without warning

sea water sloshes across the aft deck

creeping into the footwell of the cockpit

and down the hatchway stairs

The track on the old girl malfunctions

glueing the main sail halfway down

wind building erratically

from all directions

pinning the stricken/ troubled sail in place

The little boat heels all the way over

one way and then the other,

body tethered from lifejacket to boat

by one small metal loop

Leaning back with all your might

desperately hanging on,

willpower and strength alone