The Sign of the Surf

Sunday’s sail was the season’s swan song. Already a sadness that our excursions on the water are over seeps into me. The wind was lighter than forecast, which was fine by me, a lazy sailor if there ever was one. The light airs made eating our grinders and drinking a few beers all the easier as we ghosted across the metallic blue bay. Sunshine poured down on the water from a sky sparsely decorated with cumulus and warmed the air enough for an hour or so to make us discard jackets and sweatshirts. With the moon tide, the water level was so low that we scraped our centerboard on the sandy bottom in places where we usually have plenty of water. When the breeze arrived, reticulations of light played through the water, rippling across the shell-littered bottom only a few feet below us. Trailing my hand in the glass-clear, bracing water, I looked over the side to see the shadow of the boat—sail, hull, and my shape—sliding across the bottom. I felt like we were airborne and coasted inches above the earth.

The terns have vacated, heading on their flight to Tierra del Fuego, leaving gulls to roost on the rocks and cormorants to surprise you as they surface beside the boat. The ospreys haven’t left yet. Maybe they’re waiting for the hauling of Finn on Friday as a sign the season is really ending. Finn was festooned with barnacles as I suspected, and seaweed had washed into the cockpit and under the deck from storm waves. But she was riding fine, not even showing how much water she’d taken on as I rowed up to her. She’ll probably be relieved to head for the barn for the winter now that the winds and water sharpen their teeth.

Saturday’s signing on the sidewalk outside of Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham was blessed by superlative weather that brought out the amblers, strollers, and saunterers.  My companion book-signer, who was signing copies of her cookbook, brought out the cookie-eaters. She’d baked batches of chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies and regular chocolate-chip cookies and laid them out for passersby. The lure worked. I lost track of the times I heard that her cookies were the best mankind had ever munched. Yes, she sold a boatload of books, but I also sold a respectable number without the benefit of bait.  I also met an array of intriguing people, from a fellow sailor and a war correspondent to a school teacher and a woman who showed me a framed cocktail napkin from a bar I used to work in during high school. It turned out she’d seen my mention of it in an article in a local paper, and happened to have it because the bar used to belong to her grandfather. The place was called The Sign of the Surf. It’s now a much more upscale eatery called The Impudent Oyster.

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