between the devil and the deep blue sea

by tobias crabtree

Imagethere is a cove in southern mexico, way south, where the mountains come right down to the sea. it’s a tiny cove, just big enough to allow a boat to anchor without being hit with direct ocean swell. on a map it shows as a little dip in the coastline, definitely not something you would think was worth a stop-over. i was sailing with two buddies. we were unsure of whether to anchor and get sleep or to sail through the night.

there are several facts that i should disclose here. i am not a sailor, although; i was on a sail boat for over six months. my buddies are not sailors either. we were sailing, we just weren’t sailors. all of us are capable in the common sense kind of way and all of us have had plenty of adventures together. we weren’t too worried. we were real happy to be doing something we didn’t know how to do. ok, so that’s the preamble. oh yeah, and we didn’t really know where we wanted to go…mostly, we wanted to go toward the sun.

so, back at the little cove…and the world and the stars and the sea and the wooden boat and the breath from our bodies and the beating hearts, all together. all in one place. we had sailed for 40 and a few hours without the modern sailing-conveniences of GPS’s and auto-pilot. we were tired. we dropped anchor and did everything we had read in Sailing for Dummies to make sure we didn’t end up on shore (a kind of rocky looking strip in the failing light) in the middle of the night.

i didn’t sleep well. i was worried about our anchor that had dropped too deep and seemed to be almost straight down. in the night, the waves stopped completely and i woke to silence…complete silence. it was like the universe was on pause. i stood up out of my sleeping bag and looked at the stars as they ran all the way down to the sea. beyond that amazement, the silky flat ocean was full of glowing plankton that were spaced out like the stars. it was as if the sky and the sea had come together and become the same thing. the truth is, they are…they are the same thing. i went to my bag and slept in the middle of the cosmos, for reals.

the morning was soft and wonderful. the cove was deep and blue. the anchor was stuck when we tried to pull it so i swam down to check. i went down, hand over hand, on the anchor chain and the clarity of the ocean was unbelievable. huge fish swam far below me and into the bluer farther farther. i worked at the anchor and several breath-holds later, we were loose and heading out.

i have always loved that saying, “between the devil and the deep blue sea”, and i know that it means to be stuck. i like to think of it different. i’m not worried about the devil and i love the deep blue sea. this is the truth i feel from living like i do; i am capable of any possible good and evil, the best version of myself is the one standing on the deck of that boat, in between the stars and the plankton. right there, exactly there…and hopefully someday, everywhere else too.