Oceans Apart

Oceans Apart

I grew up in New England, Boston specifically, frequenting the beaches of the area that were immediately accessible. Having to shepherd a burgeoning brood of eight children, my mother chose beaches that were, by necessity, of this description. Revere and Nantasket come to mind. My parents also took us to Southern Maine where my grandfather had a cottage at Wells Beach. Later in life, I would come to haunt this area, with some regularity.

During my twenties, I performed with a rock and roll dance band that visited these coastal communities quite habitually. During this period, I also periodically patronized the beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and its concomitant islands, i.e. Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Outside of the bayside beaches of the Cape, all of these shared a common seaboard, the Atlantic.

The shoreline of Cape Cod, particularly beyond the so-called “elbow”, is typical of the Atlantic. These sometimes tumultuous seas exhibit a definitive characteristic of the Atlantic Ocean: a deep blue coloring that frothy whitecaps prance upon like mercurial motocross drivers on some constantly changing racetrack. The waters off the coast of Maine are equally precarious.

As a boy, I did not indulge much in sailing; I did not circulate in those particular cliques. My parents were not moneyed, so what little sailing I did was in the company of a friend of a friend or some other tangential association. Suffice to say, I did very little sailing but what I did I enjoyed immensely. Later in life, this love affair with the sea would come to serious fruition.

After high school, I decided to forgo college and instead opted to attend a seafarer’s school, an affiliation of the then Seaman’s International Union. Through this institution, I was able to gain membership in the union and proceed to ship out. This all took place in the early ‘70s and at that time, the union was in need of bodies to put aboard ships bound for Southeast Asia. I was one of these. I spent my entire shipping career, what there was of it, aboard ships plying the waters of Pacific Ocean.

The Pacific lives up to its name; the waters are considerably pacific, i.e. peaceful. There were times when the ship I was aboard would glide upon the still waters of the open ocean as if upon a giant vat of undulating gelatin, leaving the ship’s wake as the only disruption of the illimitable quietude.

Conversely, the Pacific could provide episodes of extreme disquietude. Storms at sea are notoriously volatile and sometimes violent, especially during typhoon season. The beauty of a tempest at sea, if splendor can be affixed to such ferocity, is in the ability of seamen to spot squalls at a distance. This enables even a slow moving freighter to maneuver out of harm’s way. That is, except of course, when said storm is bearing down with considerable velocity. During such circumstances, there is nothing but to hold on tight and ride it out. It is then that the Pacific can be anything but.

Nevertheless, apart from errant typhoons, The Atlantic is decidedly the more capricious of the two. My experiences on the Atlantic were somewhat less extensive but proved to be unquestionably more erratic. Once, on passing through the Panama Canal Zone from Pacific to Atlantic the differentiation was apparent. Departing the placid waters of the Pacific and entering the turbulence of the Atlantic (albeit the Gulf) was like night and day.

Later, I lived for an extended time in San Francisco, California and there grew to know and love the beaches of Northern California. Some of these were urban beaches, while others were remote, accessible only by foot. The hike proved exceedingly well worth my while, as some of these seascapes were ones I treasured most: long stretches of uninterrupted golden sand set beneath towering agate bluffs.

These beaches would come to define, for me, the ultimate seashore experience. Sometimes, when driving along U.S. Highway One, a beach will come into view describing a sparkling scimitar, a white sand curve traced beneath the rolling coastal hills, with long rolls of waves coming ashore in a symmetry of indescribable beauty to take the breath away. It is then that the incomparable majesty of the Pacific comes to the fore.

Oceans Apart

stephen hewitt

Lanexa, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

A comparison of Atlantic/Pacific Oceans

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