23 April 2009

The Hull and Keel

In the sweet swirls of cigar smoke I recall watching her bark, no, roar at a pair of jeans so bitterly frozen they stood up on their own in the backyard of the Antarctica of my youth. Her sweet black muzzle buried in the white powder. Smoking a corncob pipe in an old decorated uniform shirt, epaulets and all, ancient rifles on the wall, an oversized black and white of Sir John Franklin just a few months before he left for, and never returned from, the Northwest Passage, with a giant flag of the British Royal Navy behind glass, beyond the bunk and Edward England's Jolly Roger and a framed letter from Amundsen to his lover a year before his famous South Pole expedition. Its an old boat and the wood is wet. Because of the damp, rot has probably infected the wood even though she looks sound and seaworthy. Sealing the wood then traps the moisture and the rot spores. She'll rot from the inside and the rot is generally not evident until you are left with a sad empty shell. Certainly you can dry her out but that'll cause the wood to shrink, and create gaps between the planking and seams like the old Navy minesweepers of my youth. But she, she was all curves: Bow, Deck, and Gunwale. She was a soft chine below the waterline – and the shape of the stern and transom made my mind wander where even the buoys wouldn't dare dwindle. I was her Barrelman and she my Beacon. Southern Belle and the Magnetic North.