The Sea That Laps Vancouver
The Sea That Laps Vancouver , the third and final part of this three-part novel, gives its name to the work as a whole. Its theme and setting are the North Pacific.
Jamie is a young man with a passion for sailing. His boat is his life; he’s like an artist, or a man in love. I’ll publish this story in 2013. Here’s how it starts.
Jamie always thought of the spits and channels of the Lower Delta as interlaced fingers. Land and water, water and land: you never knew what might be where. You’d be barrel-arsing up some passage that was clear running water last month, only to find that silt had clogged it and you had to work your way back from a dead end. You’d pass what last week had been a sandbar from the mainland, and find the last neap-tide had crumbled its isthmus to beget an island. New lands and waterways continually arose.
It was more than challenging to sail a small boat in this water: it was actively dangerous. Take the simple distinction between fresh and salt water. Though land and sea were all mixed up, freshwater and seawater kept to themselves. The salt-free snowmelt of the Fraser rode atop the salt chuck, so that at unpredictable times a sailboat could show less flotation and run deeper, suddenly doubling its draft.
Jamie had known a guy who’d flipped a boat in here last year. His mast had imbedded in river mud, which held him fast and kept his boat from righting. The guy was harnessed for a hike to windward; he panicked, jammed his quick-release latch, and drowned. Ninety seconds, that was all it took to be unconscious; a further ninety seconds caused irreversible brain death. Then the heart stopped in another three minutes or so.
No telling what could happen. Say the guy had left his harness off. The wind might have veered, caught him aback, and blown him into the Pacific. Maximum survival time in the water was five minutes this time of year, even with a good PFD and a drysuit. Then your core temperature got too low, and you died. You didn’t freeze, exactly: your flesh never hardened. But still you died of cold.
Why take such risks? Jamie couldn’t put it in words, even to himself; but he couldn’t stay long absent, either. Apart from the challenge, it was pretty in here this time of year. Weathered pilings pointed at crazy angles like old tombstones; land birds and sea birds gathered in huge squawking flocks that somehow got along. All except the gulls. They hated all other species, bird or non-bird, even their own.
I’m a gull, thought Jamie. A beach-bum without a beach, sailing to live and living to sail.
But Jamie’s risky life leads to a triple tragedy – and then to a strange redemption.