I rush to the Chesapeake Bay to fill up on sailing adventures. I explore the Bay with my boyfriend, Jordan, on Base Camp, our simple and reliable Pearson 31. You too may know the magical moments: smooth winds, gentle waves, fiery sunsets, jumping into the water to cool off on a hot day, laughter at dinner on a boat, the calming of the body and mind at the end of the day. I am grateful for all of this, but what I truly love about sailing is its harsh and unpredictable side. It is the unexpected, uncontrollable sides of sailing that are changing my life, for the better.
A friend and experienced boater related an interesting story over lunch. He’d recently had trouble backing his boat into a slip. The wind was on the beam and his bow would blow off, keeping him from being able to line up with the slip. He had to abort his approach several times. Once he was finally successful and the dock lines were secure, an old-timer approached him and offered a suggestion for next time: drudge.
This summer the confluence of two things made a strong impression on me. The first was the opportunity to appreciate once again in its entirety The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. The second was a lengthy delay in getting to our boat due to health issues.
Every boater, particularly each do-it-yourselfer, knows the Water Rat’s famous quote about messing about in boats. But Grahame, who grew up near the water, has much more to say about the joys of the boating lifestyle through his character, the Rat.
About 27 years ago, a group of sailors at Yankee Point Marina, off the Rappahannock River in Virginia, decided that a sailboat race in November would make a fine climax to the sailing season. Some of these sailors were approaching a mature age, and so were their boats, so they reckoned they would elevate their chances of getting into the trophies by placing an age restriction on the designs of the boats invited to participate. So began the Turkey Shoot Regatta, named for its proximity to Thanksgiving, for any sailboat built to a design that was at least 25 years old. A boat still in wet paint from its builder qualified as long as its design qualified.
One night, about two years ago, we sailed Country Dancer, our Catalina 470, into a very narrow fjord just southeast of Thunder Bay, Canada. This little inlet was about 100-odd feet across, 25 feet deep, and had sides of near-vertical granite. As we had done before, we motored as far back into the granite gash as we felt we could and dropped our 73-pound Rocna anchor. It set immediately and we backed out of the cut a couple hundred feet to drop our 55-pound Rocna stern anchor. With two points established, we took the dinghy to the starboard shore and found a hearty looking little tree growing out of a nice crack and tied one of our long lines to the trunk. Three solid sets in a spot in which we could not turn our 47 feet around in seemed pretty secure. With 6-plus feet of draft in the cold fresh water, I had little fear of touching anything for the night. We pulled out our current reads, crime novels, to settle in with until nightfall.