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by Paul Austin - Dallas, Texas - USA

Macho Men of the Sea

A friend told me he hadn't moved in 30 years, and dreads the thought like it was a bear at the door. I sympathize. My Dad was in the Air Force, so we moved 15 times in 20 years. My mother was not prepared for this, but she did it to take her revenge out on my Dad by not letting me run away to Pirate School. I swore I'd make her swing from a yardarm, but never got around to it. Every time I did, she made pancakes for breakfast, so I let her off.

But then I got to thinking, am I neater on a boat than at home? Do we as boat owners pull out the floatation in the boat ends to throw our dirty socks in there? Can your friends smell it when you're upwind? Do you leave tools under the cabin sole so you won't have to pour lead in there? Have you ever sewed old ties together as a burgee on the mainmast? Are your spare sails made out of shower curtains with little bunnies on them? If the answer to any of these question is yes or even 'Well... maybe.. I... hell, so sue me!' then you are a Duckmaster.

If your bathroom is decorated with study plans, you've gone overboard. If you've nailed half-models onto your wife's best dinner plates, you've gone overboard. If you're Googling to buy a saw mill to cut planks, you've gone overboard. If you married a girl because she used to own a Michalak skiff, you've gone overboard. If you've named the dog Bolger, you're a Duckmaster First Class.

There must be instituions for people like us, with torture if we even whisper the word, horn timber. What would be the worst torture? To have to eat a 6 foot tall cheeseball without anything to drink? To have your hair stitch and glued? Ot is it just getting older?

I suppose I'm getting older when I turn a boat into a floating living room, with pictures and curtains and books and things. I think boats should be decorated by kids' drawings and colors, wild and raucous and flinging out everwhere. A certain sliver of chaos is good for the soul. It reminds us that God is the center and we are out here on the rim, looking over at what's beyond while we really long for home.

It's interesting how many tales are about voyaging home--Treasure Island, The Wizard of Oz, The Odyssey. So I wrote this poem about Sailing For Home:

I set sail after a dawn
 many years ago,
I set sail toward my home
 as fair winds gently blow.

The sea was innocent
not a cloud in the sky,
my schooner sailed swift and free
masts straight and high.

Through my glass a city appeared
on the horizon near,
but currents ran against me
so on I had to steer.

Were the currents good or bad
I didn't know for sure,
should I have fought them
or just let them endure?

I'm sailing for home on dancing winds
over an ocean blue,
never seen my loving home
but I'll know it when I do.

I tried to land one afternoon
on a green island, fair,
but the villages were empty
with echoes of despair.

I saw no hands to welcome me,
no cattle on the hills,
houses stood empty and pale,
deceptively still.

I'm sailing for home on dancing winds,
over an ocean blue,
never seen my loving home
but I'll know it when I do.

I anchored in a port at dusk
where flames burn the soul,
voices yelled and wine was spilled
as many tales were told.

I pierced into a smoky bar
as cards were thrown at men,
where laquered eyes and spoiled flesh
came to a lying end.

I'm sailing for home on dancing winds
over an ocean blue,
never seen my loving home,
but I'll know it when I do.

A sudden storm came down,
I saw the flashing light,
my schooner's mast pitched and tossed
like a choking child.

Were the winds good or bad,
I didn't know for sure,
should I fight them
or just let them endure?

When the storm blew away,
leaving the night still,
I lifted my eyes to heaven,
feeling a quiet thrill.

I can't change the winds above
or where they will blow,
but I'll set my sails with them
wherever I must go.