Last sail

Quan calls it my mistress, I call it my indulgence (especially after looking at this year’s bill), but let other people find their joy where they may, sailing just plain does it for me.  Even though the tool is artificial – at least mine is, frozen spit and aluminum and nylon; nothing natural (wood or canvas) about it – the dance is all animal.

Beset with obligations, Annie and I instead played hookey yesterday, setting off at noon.  We were spit out of the river at 1:30 by the tide and strong west wind, and Annie persuaded me to lay off for Monhegan – along trip for an afternoon.  But the air burnished so clear that each flame-leafed tree is etched on the shore – unusual for such fast-moving air so near the water’s surface to stay so dry – so making a run for something was irresistible.  The waves were high with some cross chop, and she horsed and slewed the nine miles to Monhegan in a mere hour and a half.  Empty now of tourists, we roared through the harbor dead before the wind, seeing almost no one, the boats and wharf uncharacteristically deserted.

We pulled around Manana, and tightened the sails for the trip uphill to home.  We were flat on our side, rail under, climbing and slamming over the rollers, spray flying above us and in our pockets.  Both Annie and I could feel how little sailing we had done this summer, our balance and footing shaky, more than it should be at this time of year.  Also, though it has been warm here, there was a bit of October in this wind, so we were a bit stiff-jointed from the cold and from managing the wheel of the plunging boat.
Halfway across, I saw water coming through the floorboards, and there we were, full of water and bouncing along at 6 knots.  The pumps – the electric and my flying hand on the manual – kept up with it, and it stopped as soon as we rounded Thrumcap and were upright in the river, so it must be a leak up near where the deck meets the hull – something else for Mike to look at this winter.

The tide and the last tongues of wind helped us up the river.  We couldn’t bear to turn on the engine even though it went from civil twilight to nautical twilight, and we landed at the dock under sail in the dark, putting her to bed for the night by feel and the light of the waxing moon.

But this is it.  Today I will pull off the things that can’t freeze, and then take it down to Mike’s to be hauled for the winter. It will be six months before I take the helm again, six months that will take me to Canada, England, Japan, Norway, Germany, as well as all over the States.  But nowhere will I find the country I enter when I leave the land and take to the sea, dancing between wind and water to commune with my God.


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