▲ Living aboard a yacht at sea means not only fresh air and an open-water adventure, but the fun of catching dinner for Sonah Lee and her hosts. Photo courtesy Sonah Lee
Oct. 12 dawned clear and calm. Thin white clouds flowed across a classic Jeju-blue sky. I was going sailing, but first I had to check the propellers on the 13-meter catamaran, Jade. I was the diver on the crew, so needed to see that all was in order under the waterline. Yacht owners Arni and Cam had prepared everything topside and their daughters, Molly and Nancy, had stowed their toys.
Arni stood by as I dropped off the stern of Jade. I hit the water and an involuntary squeal spat the snorkel from my mouth. The water was dry-suit cold and I was wearing only a three-millimeter thick suit, and the visibility was milky at best. Arni’s face showed disinterest as I complained about the cold and the difficulty of diving without a weight belt. His only interest was in the state of the propellers, and it was my job to check them. To my relief, they were clean and clear. Arni grunted his approval and reached down to pull me back on board.
But how did I wiggle my way onto Jade, to join Arni, Cam and daughters on a sailing voyage from Jeju to Okinawa? I really don’t know. All I know is that my husband, Gary, and I are looking to buy a sailboat but neither of us can sail.
We were trying to hatch a plan to take sailing lessons when we discovered a sailing club at Gimnyeong beach. Docked at Gimnyeong harbor were two catamarans, one huge and one very big. The huge catamaran had just arrived from its Mokpo shipbuilders and was about to start life as an in-and-out charter boat. It was destined for the honeymoon, two hour out-and-back circuit.
The other yacht, Jade, floated invitingly at her mooring. Under her name was her place of origin, Hong Kong. We rapped on the hull and a couple bobbed their heads up and invited us on board. We learned that he, Arni, was from England and Cam from Hong Kong.
Jade’s outside living space and wheelhouse is a homey space, cluttered but welcoming. As we looked around, we could see basil growing in pots, books lying around and items of discarded clothing.
We sat in this space drinking beer, eating nuts and discussing sailing. It was an easy discussion because Arni loves to talk sailing. Gary and I hung on his every word as we learned that our sailing dream could become a reality. Arni and Cam are not expert sailors; in fact, Cam is still not sure if she likes the actual sailing. Yet ,the family has been on the water for the last five years.
With our dreams becoming more solid, Gary and I waved our goodbyes, but only after extracting a promise that this surprising sailing family would visit our house for a barbecue in the next few days.
Our wood-burning barbecue of Jeju stone sits on the deck of our house in Gongchun-po (near Wimi-ri), overlooking the sea. Gary had the fire going when our visitors arrived. I don’t know if it was the Jeju pork or the fresh snapper, but Arni suggested I join his family on the Jeju to Okinawa leg of their sailing journey. The offer came out of the blue, but I accepted before it was with-drawn. It wasn’t until a week later that I started to wonder what I had gotten myself in for.
I was getting overwhelmed with the prospect of sailing the open seas; after all, I can barely swim. I can scuba dive with the best of them and love being under the water, but being on the surface makes me nervous.
Our sailing date had come and gone as the weather wouldn’t cooperate, and my nerves built. I was getting tempted to pull the pin on the sailing when Gary arrived back in Jeju from Seoul and we drove across to Gimnyeong for a good look around Jade.
The outside living space and wheelhouse was just the tip of an iceberg. Through the sliding door was an inside living/dining area with an oven, refrigerator, freezer, dining table and more. In one hull were two double sleeping spaces and a bathroom with shower and toilet. The other hull housed the main bedroom with en suite. Jade is a two living room, three bedroom, two bathroom beauty. I was ready to set sail.
After Gary left again for Seoul, things moved pretty quickly. The two typhoons threatening Okinawa were moving through and the plan was to utilize the northerly winds generated by the receding fronts.
On Sunday, I moved onto Jade, and Monday morning saw me performing the propeller inspection. I followed that with a hot shower, after which I took my place on the bow.
The pontoon was crowded with people who had befriended Arni and Cam during their one-month stay. There was Father Jerry (the sailing pastor), Sherrin, Fred the maze man, Hyun Mi and more.
Arni started one of the two diesel engines, the line tethering Jade to her pontoon was retrieved, the friends gave the catamaran a gentle push and we inched away from the pontoon. Before long, we were motoring out through the harbor entrance, and the waving people had receded to small dots.
Jeju looks different from the sea; I think it is even more beautiful. Instead of looking down to the ocean from cliffs and hills, we were looking up at the cliffs and hills from the ocean. The black cliffs shone like wet jewels and the contrast of aqua water and black rock created an image of soft serenity meets solid lava. It wasn’t long before Jade’s engine was stilled and her sails filled with wind. The sound of the wind mixed with the sound of water slapping gently on the hull, and the cries of seabirds added to the music.
Udo grew in my field of vision until it filled it. Then it was behind us and Sunrise Peak was looming, but not the way I remembered it. Then again, I’d never seen it from the ocean before. I could make out hikers snaking their ways to the peak. A few Haenyo bobbed and dived between Jade and the land, and I thought of Sherrin and her Haenyo diving lessons, and the dozen or so diving women who lived in our village and worked the waters in front of our house. A little way past Sunrise Peak, Arni turned Jade’s bow out to the open sea.
Turning to face the wind, Nancy, Molly, Cam and I moved to the stern so we could keep our eyes on the land. Nancy and Molly lost interest before Jeju disappeared, but I watched until my eyes strained for a last look of Hallasan. Then Jeju was gone and I was surrounded by the open sea. But Jade was not alone - fishing boats, ferries and cargo ships were every-where, and my thoughts turned to my duties on board. I had the midnight to five watch. In the meantime, I was going to enjoy the beauty that is sailing, if I could only beat the rising nausea of sea sickness.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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