The Allure of the Sea

What is it about the sea that calls to us? The classic scene from The Pirates of the Caribbean 3 with Elizabeth Swan Turner and her son looking out to sea calls to us. It rends our hearts. I believe it is more than just the fact that it is Keira Knightley waiting for Orlando Bloom. It hearkens back to days long gone, when the Vikings, Phoenicians, and the Maoris roamed the seas. The quest for the unknown and the longing for a loved one who has sailed off play into the allure of the ocean. I also believe the wild majestic beauty of the rolling surf has something to do with it as well. I could sit for hours and listen to the waves crash on the shore. The ocean is constantly changing. Never once is the beach the same from day to day. There is always something new to see.

We have come a long ways from the original sailors of the seas, but families of seafarers still look out to the ocean. Hayao Miyazaki’s film Ponyo gives us a glimpse into modern life of ship captains.  The dad is suppose to come home after weeks at sea, but he’s called out yet again. The son corresponds with his dad via signal flashes. A couple of years ago, we went over to a friend’s home for dinner. As we were standing around admiring the view out to the ocean, we noticed a small fishing vessel. The lady of the house paused in what she was doing, glanced at the ship and the clock, then shook her head. “No, it’s not our son. He’s not this far south today.”

However much we want to try to tame the ocean, it will not be done. Even in Ponyo, the sea rose up and created havoc for the characters. I invite you to come to the Southern Oregon Coast in winter and experience one of our storms. You will see the power of the wind and waves. It is this that also adds to the draw of the sea. It is a raw wildness that pits man against nature. The challenge to match man’s wits against the waves has its own attraction and yet when the ocean wins, that is when we take notice. According to the only list I could find online of Oregon Coast shipwrecks, 209 have been recorded from 1848 until 1999. A couple of those included some torpedo sinkings during World War II. Several brochures and sites exist to guide beachcombers to remaining shipwrecks to explore. We often think and wonder what it would have been like, little realizing the impact the event would have had on the people and the communities involved.

In my years living on the coast, I have heard of five wrecks. The largest was the New Carissa, a cargo ship that broke in two in Coos Bay. The others have been fishing boats. Last year, one capsized off Cape Blanco and all were able to be rescued thanks to a Coast Guard swimmer who made the trip in the water and waves two or three times to bring the crew to shore. Another one last year had mixed results. The captain of the vessel was lost but others were saved. Many years ago, the community was rocked as a boat went down and none were brought safely to shore. Again, this week a boat went down. It strikes home to the community that makes their living from the ocean. Some look and wonder what happened, others reach out to help those left behind, and still others hope and pray it isn’t them next time.

Through crystal seas and wild ones
they ride along,
making a living for their family.
Following the schools of fish
or the crab pots,
they work night and day
long hours to bring back the catch.

Caring for their loved ones,
making a living,
but even more than that,
keeping the vocation alive.

Braving the elements
they sail the seas
keeping sometimes alone
and sometimes in teams.
Always keeping track
of the news of the sea.

It’s time to go home now.
It’s time to turn around.
Warm fires await us,
our families and friends.
Just one more catch?
No, the fish have fled.
It’s time to go.
It’s time to go.

0 thoughts on “The Allure of the Sea”

  1. Loved this. I grew up in a river town in Ohio, so I’ve always been drawn by water. As a kid, I more than occasionally dreamt of working on the tugboats that crawled up and down the Ohio River.

    Then again, I think it is somehow something cultural, in that lots of people I meet love the water in some way. Some would say it’s us wanting to go back in evolutionary time, but I think it’s different than that. The sea and its weather is the last untamed wilderness, really. You can carry weapons to deal with animals, but the weather can turn and adventure deadly, even if you think you’re prepared for it.

    1. Bob,
      You are so right. The weather turns and suddenly that idealic day is gone. This was prompted from learning one of my seventh grade student’s dad was on this last one that went down. The ocean and even the river when it overflows is such a powerful force.

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