From the Crowsnest: CHUNG FU By William Thomas

ONCE UPON A TIME in 1978, my determination to sail a trimaran offshore attracted a “dock committee” who would never board a multihull squawking like gulls.

“Seas velly big, boat velly small,” two Japanese sages proclaimed on Victoria’s Fishermen’s Wharf, vigorously  shaking their heads.

“You’ve got to watch out every minute, or she’ll tip over in the squalls,” a keelboat skipper warned us.

“That matchbox boat will break up in the first gale,” another bystander solemnly prophesied.

The biggest drawback to an upside-down multihull is that all onboard invariably survive, sparking lurid tales by reporters who don’t know a trimaran from a sampan.

Keelboats ballasted by lead and filled with water conveniently sink. (We would encounter three cruising craft before they went down. The sole survivor – a young skipper who lost his father and fiancée along with his boat – wished he wasn’t.)

I met a conventional sailorwoman who was traumatized after trying a tri. “We thought she’d go over,” Hassie confided after a passage from Panama to Hawaii aboard a Brown 37. “At night everyone would sit together in the cockpit as the quartering seas rolled in. The boat would lift and start to heel and we’d look at each other wondering: Is this it? Is this the one?”

Multihulls sail on top of the water. But those anxious sea-sledders couldn’t see how their superb seaboat was simply profiling each wave. The owners sold their Searunner in Honolulu. Hassie went on to skipper a classic gaff-rigged yawl.

Aboard the backyard-built Kismet 37 berthed close ahead, Harold and Mia had just returned from the Marquesas. “Your boat’s small,” Harold told us. “Take it easy. You’ll want to sail reefed most of the time.”

After presenting Thea with two wooden spools to hold tuna handlines thick as spaghetti, Harold turned to give Celerity a long, appraising look. “She’s ready,” he pronounced.

That advice I counted.

Spreading out crackling-crisp British Admiralty charts made us crazy with wanderlust. Following the outlines of Atuona, Taipivai, Taiohae Bay, Tofua, Kadavu, Vella Lavella, Rendova and Tulagi felt like smoking opium. Before blasting off for Mars.

Fumbling with sextant and cribsheets out in the Juan de Fuca, I managed to narrow our position from somewhere in North Dakota to within five miles of Victoria’s breakwater. Good to go! And who better to navigate hidden dimensions than Chinese geomancers?

“Smart sailors check the omens before casting off,” I rationalized to Thea. The woman who had dressed like a gypsy before consulting the Tarot for her clients, inclined her head politely as I forsook Sailing Directions for the Book of Oracles.

Three times, three Chinese coins with square holes in the middle rose and spun and slapped the cabin table. Oil lamps hissed, casting shadows across my hand-drawn solid and broken lines. Toting them up like thrown dice, I thumbed through the I Ching

… and froze, completely taken aback.

“What’s wrong?” Thea demanded. “What is it?” Silently, I turned the book and showed her the page, open to Hexagram 64.

Chung fu, the interpretation read. It furthers one to cross the great waters.

willthomasonline.net

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