Peace Of The Morning

By Robert Beringer

"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."

There can be no doubt. For boaters, the best place in the world is on the water first thing in the morning. For a few fleeting moments every day, it's when angels sigh; when all the world, but for the drift of the tide from stem to stern, is still. My eyes open with the gull's first cry and I crawl out from the cramped aft cabin, careful not to hit my head. In the saloon, motion is barely detectable, just enough to feel the swing of the rode, and the crackle of shrimp around the hull the only noise. On deck the air is heavy. Dew covers all exposed surfaces. I extinguish and stow the anchor light, as the waning moon smiles down from a lavender sky. The water is glass. Spiders, knowing that light converts them to prey, abandon their webs to seek solace within the many confines of the bimini. Something nips at the water's surface; a small fish jumps. Our anchorage, so boisterous last evening, is now the picture of equanimity.

Private conversations are telegraphed from the distant shore. A baby cries, a motorcycle races, a dog barks. Prop-fouling crab pots that can be so hard to spot underway are now cleanly laid out in a long dotted line, awaiting their waterman. Dolphins and manatees are visible from great distances.

The sun cracks the treetops; its rays kiss the wind indicator, then slide down the mast. When they strike the deck, the boat comes to life: the vent fan begins to spin, the solar panel clicks, a faint mist forms above the deck.

A distant tug's wake bumps the hull and the halyards rattle. A line of brown pelicans glides a foot above the water. The crew, too, comes to life. I hear the pump of the head, the clank of the coffee pot. Soon a delicious smell will waft up from the galley.

The still, cool of the morning belies the forecast of a hot and humid day; thunderstorms are coming. In the cockpit, I consider the day's options and review the chart. Can we make the mouth of the St. Johns before the storms hit? How long will we have a favorable tide? We're upwind of today's destination; cat's paws claw the river upstream. I'll set the mainsail and pull the anchor, eschewing the engine. I'll surprise late risers when they stumble on deck to find that we're far from our anchorage.

Soon our floating world will be a beehive of activity: a meal, a destination, a course, a repair. It will be a busy day with a hundred tasks to perform. But for a few halcyon moments, I have the morning.

Originally a Great Lakes sailor, college administrator Robert Beringer splits his time between the Chesapeake and Florida's St. Johns River. Since buying Ukiyo (Japanese for "the floating world") in 1998, he's logged 22,000 coastal and ocean miles.