The Dreams of Boats

When we got down to the water around twenty of nine last Friday, gusts of twenty knots riffled the royal blue water where Finn was moored. Beyond, the darker blue expanse of open bay was serrated with the teeth of waves. Intermittent sun broke through the quilted layer of silver-blue and cream alto cumulus to toast us in its rays. When it dipped behind the clouds, the chill asserted itself. I was glad I wore a sweatshirt and my old yellow chamois shirt over it.  In spite of the gusts, I had no problem rowing out to the boat or getting her ready for her short voyage to the pier. Watching the water tremble under the hand of the gusts, I decided to reef the sail.  I dropped off the mooring and took a jaunt out around Halftide Rock, submerged in the high moon tide.  I realized that I could have skipped the reef since I could anticipate the gusts as they raced across the water and either ease the sheet or head up into the wind. But no matter. The reef made the helm easy and the going less wet.

I made a long tack back toward the channel marker by the breakwater light but found that I couldn’t point high enough to make the turn since the wind was deflected around the terrain to the north and became fluky and fitful. At times I was almost becalmed. Moments later, a gust would charge down, and I was heeling and clipping along. By the time I tacked again and slipped across the smooth water of the inner harbor, the sun broke through and glittered so intensely o the water I couldn’t see the dinghy dock where I was going to tie up. At last it materialized as if in negative and I cut past a few moored sailboats and empty mooring balls. The wind gusted as I swept toward a spot between two tied-up inflatables, but I eased the sheet and slowed down enough so that my wife on the dock could fend off the bow and I could get a line around a cleat. We docked as if we did it every day.

After hauling her and unrigging her with Peter Eastman, we stood in the blustery harbor parking lot watching our little boat—always so dainty and canoe—like with her low freeboard and her proud, upswept prow—faithfully following the red pickup on her trailer as she headed for the barn for the winter. The sight always sends a pang of remorse through me, the bittersweet Shakespearean tug at parting. But as Ellen said later, putting the boat away safe and sound for the long cold months brings you a certain sense of satisfaction. It’s a circle completed, and the boat is tucked away from the ice and gales. 

While she hibernates in her cocoon, will she dream of sailing with me?

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