I am 10 years old on the Staten Island Ferry, going to visit the grandparents. Always the salt sea air and the salt hot pretzels, the thrilling moment of passing the Statue of Liberty, the twinkling lights of the Manhattan skyline in the distance on the return trip.
I am 22 years old on an overnight boat to Formentera, the smallest of the Balearic Islands in Spain. I’m with three college friends on break from an extraordinary choir tour with 40 others and it’s the first time I’ve slept on a boat. I go out to the deck in the night air and every ocean voyage old movie scene is playing in my imagination as I dream about my girlfriend back home. My life has just opened up in my first trip to Europe and the world lays before me in all its excitement, promise and possibility, all come together on a boat headed to a small island.
I am 39 years old traveling with my wife and two young children over the English Channel, the beginning of another transformational six weeks in Europe. We cut through the icy waters en route to France, where we end up hitchhiking, kids and all, to get to a train station from the boat. From France, we will arrive at the Orff Institut in Salzburg and I will meet all the people and make all the connections that will define my life for the next 25 years and beyond. Post-Salzburg en route to Spain, we will stop in Venice and boat from place to place with a different kind of romance in the air.
And so it continued, these defining moments on boats over open waters— the family headed to an island in Fiji only accessible by boat, me taking the Larkspur Ferry each month to meet my Mom and Dad for lunch, traveling with my college daughter, boyfriend and wife to some Greek Islands. Always the same sensation of freedom, of possibility, of the beckoning horizon and the too-familiar land receding behind us.
It all came back to me today on the boat en route from Positano to Sorrento. The fresh sea air and wind in our faces, the sea gulls overhead, the intriguing coves and caves to our right, the mythical island of Capri to our left (mostly not recommended— who needs to see another playground of the rich?). Sorrento itself was fine, but truth be told, didn’t enchant nearly as much as Positano. We strolled, we ate, we watched the sunset from a little park, we ran for the bus that wasn’t where it was supposed to be and it was all fine, but I’m so grateful we chose to stay where we are. Tomorrow we have set aside as “beach day.”
For now, just this small ode to boats I have known and wish that we all know and never forget— the romance and fresh beginnings each trip on the open sea promises.
PS Have long thought about the Orff Course Cruise— is now the time?