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Years ago, I went on a sailing journey aboard a beautiful 240-foot, four-mast windjammer.
Built in the Netherlands in 1939 and delivered to Portugal for the purpose of cod fishing, she was christened Argus. After decades of service, she was replaced with more high-tech, equipped vessels, and sold to an American company that provided sailing expeditions to those seeking respite.
I initially sailed her to witness a solar eclipse. While I was excited to experience this event, I was just as amped to call her my home for the upcoming week. I felt a sense of awe upon seeing her—she was beautiful. She was constructed of teak and varnished wood, adorned with lots of brass fittings, and boasted six majestic, triangular sails.
As soon as I stepped aboard, I felt a sense of peace. Perhaps it was due to her amazing presence, experiencing the comforting motion of the sea under my feet, or simply being away from daily-life stresses. Whatever the reason, being aboard her was sublime. Sailing was magical, and days were filled with laughter and an unbelievable sense of freedom, which was also felt by fellow passengers and crewmates.
Everyone, including myself, seemed to feel like kids again, especially when her ropes were freed from the dock and her crisp sails were raised as we journeyed into the wind.
Days began with rolling out of bed, grabbing a coffee, and staggering to top deck to be welcomed with bright sunshine and warm tropical air while gazing at the mysterious waves of the sea. Moments later, her sails would be raised to a bagpipe version of Amazing Grace as we set sail for our next destination.
It was cleansing and energizing to be outside all day, appreciating the beauty of nature. Evenings were spent laying on top deck to watch the sky filled with a blanket of stars, where meteors frequently flew so quickly across the sky it made me question if I saw them. Once in my bunk, I listened to the sound of the sea passing on the other side of the hull as the ship gently rocked me to sleep.
Sailing on the Polynesia provided the ultimate feeling of escape. No television, phones, or internet—a total disconnection from the world. For years, I enjoyed and treasured this getaway, but in the late 2000s, the company folded and there weren’t any more sailing trips. The entire fleet of six ships was either stripped and sold at auction or sunk to create barrier reefs. I was so sad to hear my favorite respite was no more—a loss I mourn to this day.
A few more years passed, and I learned that my beloved Polynesia was one of the ships that had been sold at auction. She was returned to her home in Portugal, assumed her original name of Argus, and sat in port for over 10 years. Her freedom to move about the sea was behind her as she remained tied to a dock and neglected, while the sun and salt of the sea she once welcomed slowly stripped away her beauty.
She was empty, void of people, and unable to provide the joy to which she was accustomed. When I first saw pictures of her in deplorable condition, she grieved my soul—not only due to the memories she created, but because she deserved better due to all her years of service and protection. I felt an incredible sense of loss, and I wondered why I felt so connected to this vessel. It was just a structure made of wood and steel. But I felt as if I lost a part of me—a part of my family.
I viewed the situation as similar to all things aging—society values things and people that are new and young and seems to devalue the old (like most living things on our planet). The Poly gave her energy and contributed to the world for decades. She had a story—many stories—and protected thousands over the course of her existence.
She enabled people to make a living, having served as a fishing and passenger vessel. She brought joy and laughter to those who sought her escape. She carried many passengers who had struggles and disappointments and helped them to distance themselves from their problems and maybe even temporarily forget them. She enabled people to experience a sense of freedom and energized those she hosted so they could go back to normal life and return better equipped to address their challenges. And now, she lost her freedom and purpose, tied to a dock for years, waiting to learn of her uncertain fate as she deteriorated with each passing day.
Outside of a feeling of grief and mourning to have lost my refuge, I realized that I saw myself in that ship. I felt sorrow for good times long gone, and like that ship being tied to a dock, I was tied to responsibilities when I yearned to be free from them. Years of challenges left me questioning how realistic it was to hope for change and new beginnings.
I frequently reminisce about being aboard her, clearly remembering the joy she gave me, and feeling grateful to have experienced that sheer bliss. While I was happy to have had them, I was sad they were over. I rationalized that this is a reality of life and that sometimes hopes, dreams, and what you desire or think you deserve just doesn’t happen. And you need to carry on.
We all have challenging seasons in our lives. We may find that we are in a place we never expected or intended, but we are due to external circumstances. While you may not be one to “play the victim,” sometimes you end up being one, even though you may resist or deny that season of life.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon
Recently, I learned that her owners committed to her restoration, although her future purpose would now be to serve as a museum. There was an official press conference with pictures announcing her planned revival. While her future will be much different than her past, she will be cared for as she deserved, although she will no longer sail. While I wished she would still be navigating the sea, I felt a sense of incredible happiness for my dear Poly (Argus), which transcended to a sense of joy for me.
Witnessing her journey and hearing the recent developments provided a welcomed message for me. She helped me realize that if you are unwillingly tied to a circumstance or situation, it doesn’t mean you will be tied to it forever.
If you feel as though you’ve lost your joy and your freedom, they haven’t left; they will reemerge at an appropriate time. If you think there is no opportunity for change in your life, hope can surface and situations can turn around. The outcome may be different than anticipated, but there is a chance that it may be good.
We may have multiple purposes during our lifetime, including some we may have never anticipated. But if we embrace those chapters, we may experience joys we never expected. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed, our age, or what the current circumstances appear to dictate.
And so, the Poly (Argus) continues to warm my soul. She helped me to acknowledge that if good things and new beginnings can happen for an old, rusty, disregarded ship, they can happen for me too. Just when it’s least expected.