Friday, May 15, 2009

Becoming Tropicalized

To say that a boat has been tropicalized means not, as one might think, that it has been made over for the heat or for equatorial sailing, but that its materials are worn out, exhausted or destroyed by heat, sun and excessive corrosion. People, too, can become tropicalized apparently: they adapt poorly to the heat, both physically and mentally, finally giving up both movement and hope.

9 May 2009

So much beach yesterday, despite the fun of building a fort and painting in its shelter, that I’ve hardly stepped above decks all morning. I still carry with me all the excesses of the day: not really sunburn, but aching eyes and skin from the blazing blaring whiteness of sand and sky, the hot dry land breezes, the burning sand. And although I’ve bathed, it feels as if sea salt still cakes my hair, collects grittily behind my ankles, and sandpapers the backs of my arms. The light is too bright to peer into, too over-exposing, and so I don’t look, despite the splendid views, the mountains dropping suddenly into the sea, the cacti rearing against the sky, the changing palette of shadow and colour on the rocks and hillsides.

I feel faintly depressed, dissipated—affects many northern sailors appear to feel after a time in the tropics. Some drink to dull their senses, others buzz speedily from anchorage to anchorage or boat to boat, desperately trying to hold their depressions at bay; many read and do elaborate, obsessive crafts and repairs. But despite the heat, the perfection of the landscape, the fine mix of warm sea and hot air, few sailors swim, or go ashore and walk about or paddle in the shallows; few emerge—sometimes for days—from the shelter of their boats. Who knew that sailing would engender a life of stillness?

We are in paradise, a dozen boats here, and yet everyone under wraps because, in fact, the combination of heat, idleness and isolation from our most deeply embedded human engagements and communities cannot be long borne, despite the white beaches of our travel-poster dreams. The pleasures of a life of leisure are sometimes better imagined than lived, for as in our field of vision, contrasts are what awaken us, keep us sharp, bring what is in the plane into view. While here, the white light blots out everything but itself.

You resist the heat not by fighting it—that makes you hotter still—but by giving in, lying beneath it, outlasting it, waiting for a breeze, the night, some shift or alteration. You do not move out into the heat, but shrink away from it. This is why, perhaps, paradise can be so depressing. There is no such thing as a conquest of the heat, an active approach to it; endurance is all.

So few northerners think as they plot their holidays in the south—I know, I have been among their number—there are no trees on the sea! No shelter, no shade, no freshwater glade, cool and damp…I had never imagined even wind could be so searing.


The perfect beach—and no one on it! (Isla Coronado)

Marike squints in the sun & looks for shade

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