Mark, how when sailors in a dead calm bathe in the open sea—mark how closely they hug their ship and only coast along her sides.

—Herman Melville, Moby-Dick


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When I first reached Moore, by cell phone, from my classroom, back before I’d given up schoolteaching for seafaring, he’d said, gruffly, “There are no passengers aboard the Alguita, only crew.”

    Fine by me, I’d told him, thinking of Melville’s Ishmael, who whenever he goes to sea always goes as a sailor, before the mast, on the forecastle deck, never as a passenger. It was early spring, that afternoon, and on my chalkboard was a stanza of “There’s a certain slant of light,” between which I’d marked out the stresses of Dickinson’s irregular hymn meter, and in the pockets of my corduroy blazer were chalk nubbins and red pencils, and outside my classroom windows, on Manhattan’s East 16th Street, the fruitless pear trees were in bloom, and on the sidewalk below, schoolchildren, just dismissed, were purchasing colorful balls of Italian ice from a cart, and in my mind the tropics of the North Pacific were a vague, blue dream.

    Moore was planning a short expedition that would take place the following November, and maybe there’d be room for me among the crew. “Do you know how to sail?” he asked. “Because our number-one priority is safety. It can be dangerous out there.”

—”The Third Chase: Captain Moore”