In the days of yore when master craftsmen turned their hands to the construction of ships, they not only built vessels that effortlessly rode an undulating sea, but imbued their creation with a life of its own. At one time, sailing ships were the most complicated crafts to grace the ocean. Constructed from natural elements like wood and canvas, these sleek creations were as untamed as the raw components used to give them life.
Legend tells us that when a sailing ship caught the wind for the first time, her spirit was released. Depending on mood, she might be frivolous, sulky, fearless or mercurial. Her temperament was often influenced by the disposition of her creator.
From the first primitive rafts made of wood, to the mighty clipper ships of the 19th century and the steel giants of today, every craft is imbued with a life essence. Some are angry by nature, others protective and serene. There are masculine spirits, fierce phantoms that inhabit behemoth destroyers. Others are immature and child-like, enjoying the frivolity inherent in something as tiny as a skiff or as carefree as a windjammer.
The romantic in me has always imagined the winsome spirit of a ship as a lovely, ethereal woman who falls in love with the captain. One is human, one is not. Star-crossed lovers. That’s so my kind of tale.
Of course I’ve played around with it. so for today’s Mythical Monday, I offer a snippet from yet another WIP involving the spirit of a sailing ship and her captain. They’ve been together before, made love, then separated. During a savage nor’easter, my captain, Nathaniel Clay, is tossed overboard and blacks out. When he regains consciousness, he’s on land, storm and sea a distant memory as if he’d dreamed both.
Nathaniel watched the lazy glint of sunlight reflect off the bay, the surrounding shoreline a blend of marsh and sand. Sea oats, pondweed and slivers of eelgrass bent gracefully in a light easterly breeze. The air smelled of marsh and brine, nutrient rich with loam and sand. It wasn’t unpleasant as much as pungent, a reminder of the vast sea he loved dearly. The breeze on his face was warm, scented with the tang of saltwater.
I’m dreaming, I must be.
But it was a pleasant dream, full of sunlight and water.
“I’ve been waiting for you.”
He turned at the sound of the woman’s voice. She looked exactly as he remembered, that excessively pale hair almost silver-white, her eyes the electric blue of sun-kissed water. He held out his hand, uncaring how she came to be there, only that she was. Her fingers twined with his, and she stepped nearer, close enough that he could smell the exotic mix of sea and wind in her hair.
He knew her as the spirit of his clipper, Maiden of the Dawn.
“Why did you leave?”
“I couldn’t stay.” She slid her hands onto his shoulders, one finger lightly skimming the edge of his collar. “I want to help you, Nathaniel, but I’m limited in what I can do. The sea has laid claim to you.”
He shook his head, not sure he followed. “Am I dreaming?”
“Of a sort.” She smiled, sapphire and moonstone dancing in her eyes. “But it’s a pleasant dream, is it not?”
He gripped her waist. “Aye.” He’d forgotten how slender she was, how perfectly her body fit when melded to his. She leaned into him, and he ducked his head, pressing his mouth to hers. She tasted of sunlight, cool ocean and wind-streaked skies, impossible things that made his head spin. He fisted a hand in her hair, holding her in place, deepening the kiss until he left them both breathless. When he drew back, he saw her eyes had changed again, smoky and dark like the North Sea at dawn.Trembling, she rested her head on his shoulder.
“Do you think it’s possible to love someone so strongly in such a short time?” she whispered.
He kissed her brow. “Anything is possible.”
She was wearing some kind of slinky sundress held together by two delicate straps and a few buttons. He could have it puddled at her feet in seconds. He wanted to feel her beneath him, her passion twining with his to join bodies and hearts together. He traced his fingertips over her lips, watching the bow of her mouth quiver beneath his touch. His smile was fast and blinding.“You’ve bewitched me.”
Her eyes dipped, her mood abruptly solemn. “That’s not permitted.” She shook her head, and her hair tumbled over her shoulders, veiling her face. “I’m not real, Nathaniel. I’m a spirit.”
“Don’t talk like that.” But even as he made the protest, something inexplicable twinged deep in his gut. He could touch her, hold her in his arms and kiss her. He’d made love to her, emptied himself inside of her, then held her as they’d slept nestled together.
And he’d fallen in love with her.
He took her hand and led closer to the water where the bay was hemmed by beds of sun-warmed grass and soft sand. The breeze frolicked around them, bending spindly stalks of sea oats to the shoreline and kindling threads of white on the water. Nathaniel drew her down on the grass and wrapped her in his arms.
It wasn’t real, it was a dream. But he no longer cared who or what she was, only that they were together.
She gazed up at him, her arms wrapped around his neck, her hair a wild white veil on the bottle-green grass. “Do you know who I am, Nathaniel?”
He kissed her cheek, her brow. “The woman I’ve fallen in love with.” Raised above her, he bent and brushed his lips against hers. It took only a second for her to respond, a second more for her to grow yielding and eager in his arms.
Somewhere overhead he heard the piercing cry of a gull. And then he heard nothing . . . only the beat of his heart joined with hers in perfect harmony.
The way it had always been.
Okay, so if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a romantic sap. And I’m of the opinion sailing vessels and romance belong together. What better combination than a sexy captain and a supernatural spirit of uncommon grace?
I spent a good twenty years of my life on boats, from creeks and rivers to bays and a bit on the ocean. I composed numerous stories watching the setting sun bleed over marshland and coves, or turn a river to lavender milk. My husband and I no longer have a boat, but I have many memories and amazing tales of the years we let the spirits of those small crafts lead us into adventure. Trust me, there were plenty.
Wishing you a happy – and spirited – Mythical Monday.