Season’s End

I mourn the end of our sailing season. I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong: Though we didn’t sail as much as we like because we needed to tend to our old gentleman of a yellow Labrador, we had fine jaunts in all sorts of wind conditions with no major mishaps.

But I already miss the tug of taut lines and the thrumming tiller, the gulp and lap of waves against the hull, the salt smack of sea air, the slap of sail. The short sail I took before we hauled Finn out for the season will have to hold me till May.

Under blue skies crisscrossed by contrails and smears of cirrus, I dropped off the mooring in light airs of about five knots out of the north northwest. We were the second to last boat on the water; a Beetle Cat was still moored at the farthest part of the mooring field. I swung back to the beach to drop the dinghy off, then set a course out toward Halftide Rock so I could tack into the inner harbor. The waves chuckled against the hull as the breeze stiffened, slackened, stiffened, slackened. I came about when I saw a stretch of greasy water separating us from the water riffled by the breeze so I wouldn’t lose way.

I sailed toward the rocks bordering the beach in the mooring field, then came about again and took a leisurely course back toward the Scraggy Neck causeway, not a single other boat on the water. The night before I had dreamed that I sailed Finn directly onto the trailer, a feat I’d never accomplished before because of wind conditions. From the way the breeze kept changing its mind about blowing or not blowing, it was a feat that looked to remain unmet this day, too.

Coming about again, I set a course directly for the beacon at the end of the breakwater, the osprey’s nest now just an empty heap of sticks atop the structure. I rounded the point, the wind holding, and I weaved my way past a couple of bigger sailboats moored in the inner harbor, one of which emitted the tantalizing scent of cooking bacon. Maybe the air temperature made the scent even more enticing: I was comfortable in the chill thanks to my baseball cap, fleece vest, sweatshirt, and two long-sleeve polos, old blue jeans, and fishing boots (though the toes of my left foot had been numb earlier).

When I ghosted into the slot between the pier and the dinghy dock leading to the ramp, Peter Eastman, Finn’s builder and owner of the yard that maintains her, was backing the trailer into the water. I sheeted in to slow down, and eased the boat into the cradle.

With the slight crunch of barnacles on the rubber pads of the trailer as the boat came to rest, another season ended. I was left standing in Finn’s cockpit, feeling fulfilled at finally accomplishing a minor but satisfying feat.

But as we rumbled out of the water up the ramp, a bittersweet pang took over, a pang about the days of sailing just past, about the long stretch of sail-less days, about other losses that lay ahead.

Finn in Megansett Harbor

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