From the moment one crosses the bridge separating Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on the John Ringling Parkway from Sarasota to the Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key there is an immediate nautical theme that insinuates the barrier island. The isolation of the island ensures the survival of this romantic narrative. From almost any perspective on the island the maritime tincture is inescapable. Even now as I write I hear the crashing waves.
As is not uncommon in many other seafaring provinces the names of the streets capture the seagoing overture. Consider the following: Dry Dock Waterfront Grill, Channel Lane, Sloop Lane, Ketch Lane, Schooner Lane, Yawl Lane. Cutter Lane, Outrigger Lane. Gunwale Lane, Hornblower Lane, Spinnaker Lane, Halyard Lane, Bowspirit Lane, Yardarm Lane, Harbour Cove Circle/Drive/Way, Portofino Restaurant and Grill, Gulf Tides of Longboat Key, Bayou Sound/Road/Gate/Lane/Circle, The Dock on the Bay, Beach Harbour Club, Kingfisher Lane, Bayfront Park, Pelican Harbour & Beach Club, Windward Bay, The Lazy Lobster, Blue Dolphin Cafe, Spanish Main Yacht Club, Binnacle Point Drives and Old Compass Road. As contrived as they sound, they all exist.
Since the time I studied law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia - where my routine Saturday morning included a walk along the Atlantic Ocean - I have forever been inclined to matters connected to the sea. It was a penchant which I revitalized annually when visiting Provincetown on the northern tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
My fondness for sea-level habituation and habitation has increased exponentially since my retirement from the practice of law. There is even a practical advantage in that I find it particularly agreeable to bicycle on the flat surfaces which characterize proximity to the sea.
When I succumbed to inland living in Upper Canada I sought to extend my coastal experience by including in my repertoire of possessions such loaded features as a ship's bell and antique sailing art. I bought my first solid brass Chelsea ship's bell and barometer at a yacht outfitter's in Halifax upon a return visit. It was not unusual as I approached another seaside visit to find myself muttering the enchanted words of John Masefield, "I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky...".
Though there are unquestionably sophisticated venues along the coast of many countries, I have traditionally gravitated to the more relaxed destinations. My idea of a good time by the sea does not for example include black tie and white linen; nor the more reserved sun bathing habits of the Italian Riviera. Instead I prefer to lapse into the vernacular, to wear comfortable cotton and short pants. The transition from bathing suit to evening togs has to be a simple process.
This is not to suggest there isn't an insistence upon quality food. Already I have established my preferred evening dishes of fresh fish and crab cakes with salad. Admittedly the attraction of red meat has diminished commensurately. The salt sea air seems to invite a more restrained diet including fruit naturally.
While not all coastal areas are perpetually warm, I confess a preference for the varnished features heat and sunshine. Recovering from the tingling of salt in the afternoon sun is perfectly acceptable in my books! I haven't any reluctance to promote a leathern visage. Though I've never felt the need or desire for a tattoo I will say that a bit of bling is displayed to advantage on a tanned surface.
There was a time when I would willingly have given way to the well worn custom of the drunken sailor, including a partiality for Winston cigarettes. The customary choice of liquor was Haig Pinch scotch whiskey which was the first purchase from the package store when rolling onto the Cape. The last time I had anything to drink was five years ago. Now what gets me into bed early isn't passing out but fatigue. I am so enthralled by the manifest recreation of the day that I haven't any wish or regret for anything stronger.
by JOHN MASEFIELD
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.