The good ship Albayzin has seen better days — haven’t we all? She’s solid, and the rust in some of the less-seen places is showing through.
Whoever painted this car ferry last didn’t quite get to the cracks, and where it’s now green on the walking surfaces, you can still see the blue from its previous incarnation.
But it’s a solid ship, one under the Cypriot flag of convenience and registered in Limassol
Right now, there is nothing but the straight line of a horizon 360 degrees around the Albayzin as it sails from the Canary Islands, off Morocco, to Cadiz in southern Spain. Somewhere out there, to the right — the port side — is the coast of Morocco; to the starboard, there is nothing for 7,000 kilometres, and then some American coast.
There is a solid chundle noise — not a rumble and not a chug — from the funnel stack, and a lightish-brown stream of exhaust blows up and away. And behind this ship is a wake that stretches in a relatively straight line from where we came.
It’s good to look back.
It reminds me of life and how I’ve lived. We are all cast adrift on the ocean of life, riding the waves, the squalls, the storms.
Life reaches out before us, a horizon, where we can set a course anywhere. There are no Google Maps, there is but a moral compass, one that points north, helping to lead us home.
Overhead, there are clouds, and as this voyage of 36 hours unfolds, I appreciate their every texture, wisp, softness.
Somewhere, out there to the southwest, there is a storm of sorts gathering, the clouds mustering, rising higher, casting a darker shadow. We will miss that.
Above, there is clear blue sky, and there are no contrails of jets streaking a white line there between where they have been and where they are going.
Over this glorious day of nothingness and everythingness, there has been one solitary interloper, away, on the east, heading south, shaped liked a tanker or a bulk carrier of some sort. Its appearance opens my mind to a range of questions: What does it carry? Where is it going? Who is aboard? Here, on the good ship Albayzin, we are cast together, a crew on a boat that unites us in commonality, in course, but we are all disparate of course and set on our own voyage in life.
At night, the stars are big and watch over us. Ancient mariners set their course by these celestial markings. Now, they are more symbolic signposts and, where ever I may look to the heavens, there is a familiarity in the constellations as sure as the phases of the Moon.
Tonight, that smiling face that looks down on us all, is not quite full, not quite complete. And isn’t that true of us all — not quite the finished thing in a cycle of life that is so predictable and a marker of time past, present and future.
At evening, the Sun sets large, disappearing into the ocean, drowned in a spectrum of yellow and orange, like a match that burns brightest after struck, then dies in the wind.
I once stood at Finisterre — literally the end of the land — at the most western point of continental Europe, and watched the sea devour the Sun. It was there that men once watched and wondered what lay over that horizon.
The Albayzin’s bow points somewhere north, pressing and cutting through the waves, taking us closer to where we are going but without fully ever understanding what is beyond the horizon. Those ancient mariners reached and found a new world, but the dreams there have long since died.
Truly, here in this ocean, the only certainty is where we have come from and what we have left in our wake.