East with Edward

I put the 2nd edition book galleys to bed in Jonesport, the manuscript spread out on the boat table, on the cell phone with Joannah’s lilting brogue from Edinburgh, we leafed our way through the final changes in each chapter.  With this year-long project finally in the bag, we leapt out of Moosabec Reach on a singing north wind, with only jib and jigger (two of the three sails) up.  Two were enough – we roared around the corner in gulps of air, the rigging keening in the wind, up into Chandler Bay, pausing only because we caught a lobster pot on the rudder, which in the end we had to cut.

My dad used to chant “Robert Augustus Gardner Monks carried his money around in trunks”.  The Gardners (or the Monks, don’t know, they married) own stately and beautiful Roque Island, the easterly goal of our cruise.  I had been there once, years ago, and had put my boat on a rock and otherwise not acquitted myself well.  My father, alive at the time, had been philosophical about my troubles, having gotten himself into many scrapes in his sailing days.  I hated sailing with him when I was young – he was a yeller, which I now realize from my own tendencies happened when he was scared – but had reveled in it since I had grown and become the captain myself.

As we rounded from Chandler’s into Englishman’s Bay on the north point of Roque, the Gardner-Monks compound revealed itself – house after large house on a beautiful green sward, surrounded by the grey granite cliffs of Roque, to which the trees cling with Maine tenacity.  As we changed tacks in Shorrey Cove, there was a strange thumping roar we didn’t understand, and then a helicopter lifted out of the trees, and tilted off through the thick northerly air toward Bangor.

We worked our way up the bay to Roque Bluffs, where we anchored of  frigid beach, and I went overboard to check that the lobster pot and all its line was well and truly out of the propeller.  The water was so cold that after surfacing I could not find my testicles for some time, except by the ache.

By the time we left, the wind had risen to a shriek, and we roared down Englishman’s (past a castle – three stories complete with crenellations, the whole Rapunzel bit, on a small island that marked the border between the two bays – like an English folly.  Who pays to cart an entire castle – every worker had to be imported, every stone would have to be loaded into a boat and unloaded again – to be carted out to a small, remote, treeless island?  Another Monks?) into Machias Bay, with the huge round antennae of the sinister Cutler naval base.

The sky was grey, the sea was up to a steep chop, and the boat was straining downwind at 7+ knots, but we were exhilarated – this was as far east as either of us had been, and certainly the farthest east I had been with a boat under my command.  At that moment I decided “This is enough”- as modest an easterly run as it might be for real sea sailors – and shaped around the Libby Islands to turn back to Roque for the night.  Just as I uttered that order to myself in my head, a large dark blue dragonflty flew under my arm, around between Annie and I, and then disappeared upwind.  We are talking a mile or more offshore, with a heavy wind – what’s a dragonfly doing out there?

My father always appears to us in dragonflies – even when he was alive, it was his totem – he often commented on them and their colors and their flying ability, and a dragonfly swept similarly through his hospital room at the moment of his death.  So forgive me, it’s unutterably New Age, but I believe Edward paid us a congratulatory visit, toasting our easterly achievement.  I am glad he’s still around.


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