Story D 'On the Way to Anagoda' by Raelinda Woad

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It's just amazing, the things that can happen to you on a sailboat on the ocean on the way to Anagoda.

We were sailing close hauled along the edge of the Atlantic and the Caribbean sea. The sun was high and fierce but the swells were low and gentle. The current was powerful and sneaky.

It was our longest passage so far, and my first time at the helm steering without a land sight. Captain Carol taught me how to sail by compass and cloud.

"The compass will keep you on course," she said. "But you can't keep looking at it or you'll get seasick." She didn't add, "again."

The trick was to steer for a cloud. The clouds were moving across the sky, but not as fast as the current was pushing us off course. I learned how to let my eyes just brush the compass while I adjusted course, and then jump to the horizon to line up our boat with a cloud. I'd hold course to that cloud for two minutes. Then I'd glance back down at the compass.

While we sailed we talked. Sandra and Sue and Captain Carol and myself. We were four women sailing a 44 foot sloop from Virgin Gorda to the island of Anagoda. None of us were younger than 40, or older than 70. We had met three days ago and connected instantly. Our pasts had nothing in common, but our paths were the same. To sail.

Again and again I checked the compass and then found our course in the sky. The atmosphere over the ocean seemed weightless. The clouds formed into impossibly straight pillars that drifted across the horizon with perfect posture. Compass to cloud. Compass to cloud. Back and forth. Over and over. Everything on board a sailboat happens in rhythms.

Even conversation. As we talked, the topics swung back and forth. Food to friends. Dreams to fears. Past to present.

On board our boat was a global positioning device the size of a cell phone. If we got lost it would listen to a satellite and tell us where we were.

Sandra was reading a book about the ancient Polynesian navigators. To them, knowing where you were wasn't science, it was culture.

"They didn't have charts," Sandra said, "or even a compass. They didn't need them."

I flicked my eye over to the compass and adjusted our course again. I had no idea where we were. On an ocean sailing for a cloud.

"They could see land before it rose above the horizon just by looking at the color of the clouds. They could see the reflection of an unseen island on the bottom of a cloud. A faint green color."

"Anagoda should be coming up soon," said Captain Carol.

Everyone looked at the sky.

Sandra saw it first. She lived on a boat and had the right kind of eyes.

"Yes! There it is. The green cloud."

Then Captain Carol saw it. She had sailed across oceans by herself.

"That one. The green cloud."

Sue and her husband owned a sailboat and raced all summer. She saw it.

"The green cloud!"

I had just begun sailing that year. I squinted at the sky. But all I could see, from one side of the horizon to the other, were white clouds. Dove white. Cream white. Cappuccino foam white. White.

Two minutes went by and it was time to check the compass again. But I kept searching the clouds.

And then I saw it.

One cloud among all the other clouds was blushing. As if it could feel four pairs of female eyes on it, its color came up a bit more. It flushed turquoise.

It was so faint, its color was so slight, that to see it made my eyes go soft.

And then the rest of me went soft and my heart gave a thump.

It's just amazing, the things that can happen to you on a sailboat on the ocean on the way to Anagoda.

You can fall in love with a cloud.