Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cast up from old ocean

It was on a cool midwinter's day not unlike today that those words - cast up from old ocean - were pondered by a compatriot of mine, words that still resonate with me. Joshua Slocum, a Nova Scotia-born sea captain, was sitting in his Boston home and struggling with boredom and unemployment. A master mariner of the highest skill - he'd captain sail vessels throughout the seas and oceans of our planet - Slocum was about to embark on a new and exciting endeavour; he was going to attempt to sail around the world. Solo.

Slocum eventually achieved his goal: he left New England on April 24, 1895 in a little sloop called "Spray", returning to America three years later. He wrote about the experience "Sailing Alone Around The World", a book little remembered outside of diehard sailing fans. But the idea of trying something outrageous, something audacious, something dangerous...well, I understand what that Canadian mariner was thinking.

For the past two and a half years, I've been immersed in the world of commercial shipping and those who make their livelihoods from this ancient business. I'm a writer, and sometime documentary filmmaker, based in Toronto, who decided to write a book about seafaring today. It was definitely not an easy task and has consumed far more time - and money - than I'd imagined possible. It took me to Korea, India, Monaco, England, France and the U.S. I ventured across the North Atlantic in September gales, through the edge of a hurricane off Cape Fear and into the tranquil waters of the East Sea off Asia. I met captains, engineers, deckhands, priests, wives, designers, builders, wealthy owners and poor shipbreakers.

It was one of the most amazing things an individual can experience.

Now this may seem a boring topic to consider - people shuffling goods from Point A to point B within frameworks of industrial steel - but I ask you to pause a moment and ponder a few thing: First is why wouldn't individuals who traverse the seas and oceans of our planet in solitude not have something to say, about life, love and existence? Second is to consider that seafaring is the most dangerous job around: somewhere in the region of 6500 mariners die on the job every year; think about that for a moment. Finally, I put to you that the tales of travelers are always imbued with mystery, danger and insight. We must just listen to hear the stories.

My book, "Ocean Titans: Journeys in Search of the Soul of a Ship", will be coming out in mid-March here in Canada. so as I prepare for the launch of the book I've decided to relate some of the stories and events that I've been privy to while working on the book. There are stories to be told, stories not included in the book plus ones not necessarily related to it. But all remind me of the variety of experiences to be encountered when one just opens your eyes and ears to what surrounds us.

The sea may be of infinite width, as Jules Verne wrote, but life is immeasurably larger.


At 10:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

C'est Dan. Love the blog. Love the book. C'est Dave

At 10:00 PM, Blogger KWOZIMODO said...

nice pix dude!

At 9:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pleased to hear that your book will be available next week. Your blog is an excellent marketing tool - allowing readers to preview your engaging style of writing. It reinforced my desire to read your book. By the way, our family enjoyed the documentary that you were a part of about shipbreaking in India.

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