The merchant schooner, Frontier, lies at anchor in the harbour bay. There is no wind and the dawn sea is a listless opalescent. She doesn't look a temptress to me, but then I suppose that's the point.
My father has a notion that the sea is a kind of desert. 'Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.' He recites a line from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner and screws up his eyes to look at the brooding sun rise from the desert sea. 'It will bring you closer to God, this journey. You will see. Look ... it seems endless, does it not? Endless,' he repeats with a stress. 'Nothing for miles and miles. Featureless. But dismiss the sea as benign at your peril, Son.'
'The sea is a mistress and a temptress,' the Captain agrees. 'She must never be taken lightly nor ignored. She will call forth the Gods at will. She will shapeshift the wind and tear sail from mast. She is silent one moment and a she-devil Valkyrie the next. She must be obeyed.'
If you're anything like me, you don't like to be told what to do and what to believe. You like to find out for yourself. As far as I'm concerned the Captain can keep the sea and the caterwauling gulls. He can keep the fish guts and the sloping cabin. He can keep his bucket and scrubbing brush and all hands on deck and port and starboard and stern and whatever else. He can keep his sea, and so can my father. Take me home, I beg the sky, and the sky turns its back in return.
Today feels like a dream.
Today feels like ... like I'm floating. Well, I suppose I am floating.
The breathless Right Honourable Ibrahim Seedat appears at my side, fresh from his step-out from starboard to port. 'Ah there you are, young rapscallion, bidding adieu to the land, eh? Tallyho what.'
Originally from Calcutta, the Right Honourable Ibrahim Seedat (he refers to himself in this way all the time, though there is no indication why he's a right honourable anything) has been studying law in both Paris and London for many years and has acquired a peculiar turn of phrase. He informs me that he has an opportunity to visit an uncle in Africa who has made the acquaintance of a young woman who will make a most appropriate bride for the Right Honourable Ibrahim Seedat.
I nod and shrug and he sighs and shakes his head and beneath us the chained head of an anchor hauls upward, the engine coughs and splutters, a pall of black smoke rises into the pale blue and the opalescent sea ripples and churns.
The voyage has begun.