Yet faraway islands soon became a dream deferred not only to balance a fierce commitment to family and daughters’ educations, but also to develop the finest piece of floating sculpture my father’s hands could shape. Zero square corners. Marble galley countertops. A cedar closet. Bullet-proof pilothouse windows for sunbeams to stream through at anchorage. Rounded corner by rounded corner the boat progressed through my childhood until three decades later we launched Restless in Scituate Harbor, Massachusetts to the colored kazoos of more than five hundred people.
I knew Stanford @ SEA would prepare me to finally circumnavigate with my father after his impending retirement. But on his sixty-fourth birthday, the second day of the SEA shore component, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Our lives are terminal upon birth, I console myself, as I am uplifted by my dad’s dogged determination to fight far beyond his prognosis.
And so I sailed to the North Pacific, bringing with me part of him. Halyards clanging in the night, skipjack tunas hauled onto the quarterdeck, arching palm trees on Palmyra, the complexities of the Seamans’ engine underworld— all make me smile thinking of him.
Today, a shipmate poked me at 6:20 AM for a tranquil but tense morning watch. Not many of us were awake as Captain Phil and third mate Austin Becker navigated meticulously into the Kingman Reef lagoon— an isolated atoll of submerged corals spread between just ten minutes of longitude and four minutes of latitude on an inaccurate map unfurled across the chart table. We entered in more than 800 feet of depth where the charts read 42. I felt an unsettling sense of eeriness in a place that more sharks have seen than humans— an electrifying dose of the world’s vast unknowns, as mysterious as a cancer prognosis.
|On right, the newly discovered Kingsland Island on Kingman Reef|
-Haley Smith Kingsland
Earth Systems master’s candidate