First Sail, 2021

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 6:30pm

In early May I took a first sail up to Potter Cove on Prudence Island, which for the past fifteen years has been a great sailing destination and a hideout; it’s a nice contrast from the Port of Galilee where I live and work. Most important, it’s a great place for peace and quiet before the summer season kicks into full-on coastal gear, and our ‘hood becomes a destination and an embarkation point for folks ferrying south. I always look forward to this early springtime sailing drill because I know the cove will be empty. On 12 May, I left Newport in 15 to 18 knots of SW pushing Reverie with a fair tide. After leaving Newport Harbor I put the spurs to her and she was flying. Moreover, it was unseasonably warm while I steered my boat with my foot and listened to MVY Radio; which is a great radio station based on the Vineyard. On this day there was a bit of tanker traffic, but I saw no other sailboats in the bay. I was having a blast and doing no heavy lifting while Reverie rode through acres of empty water and scooted north at 6.5 knots. These days, my idea of a good sail is flying downwind and just managing the mass and physics of my sailboat with my foot on the wheel. I don’t want to feel beat up after enjoying my slack time from the ferry docks, so keeping the boat balanced on all points of sail translates to less strain on my geezing seventy-one year old body. I know, I’m brilliant.
On this first sail I did the usual drill and grabbed a mooring in the cove, and immediately checked on a huge west-facing osprey nest that seems to defy the elements. I could fit inside this nest. On this first sail, I noticed something else I’ve never seen in early May. Just off my stern at about thirty meters, was a mooring on which an osprey was building a nest. While eating the grub my wife had packed up for me, I watched as the industrious fish hawk flew by me with twigs and placed them on the mooring in a judicious manner. The nest was taking shape and I figured it had just started being built in the past couple of days. Unfortunately, this nest would be taken down when the mooring’s owner would show up to tie up his boat. Although thwarted by this human incursion the osprey would directly and instinctively find another suitable nesting site for his mate and fledglings; it’s simply baked into the animal’s DNA to do this straightforward reproductive drill.
After I ate my supper and did some boat chores, I read for an hour, and then crunched out an outline and started to write a column about my wild winter in Daytona Beach. I put a thousand words on the page and then brushed my teeth and flopped into my bunk. The cove was still; the island only had the ambient noise of insects and the lowing of a cow. Peace. I fell fast asleep; however, at 0100 hours something hit the mast of my sailboat and the impact nearly knocked me out of my bunk.
The torque and twang of the headstay, shrouds and backstay were so powerful that I first thought the mast was falling down, which made no logical sense because the chainplates are bullet proof on my boat. Reverie is a tough old boat. I grabbed a flashlight and climbed up the companionway ladder and into the cockpit.
I pointed my flashlight up the mast to see what made my boat rock so violently so as to wake a sailing geezer from a deep sleep. Forty feet up there was a male osprey perched at the top of my mast and keeping an eye on his nest that floated off my stern. Male ospreys will build a nest for their mates, and then do the mating dance. Sadly, I saw the futility of all this effort because the nest would eventually be destroyed. This osprey came in for a hot landing on my boat’s mast probably because it was ink black dark in the cove. Albeit a futile endeavor the bird did his due diligence of guarding his nest-in- progress, and alighted by daybreak to continue building his nest. When I awoke at 0600 I noticed the southwest wind was jacking up and I decided to leave the cove and head home to Newport. I made coffee, and sailed off my mooring.
As I made my first tack toward the Mount Hope Bridge the wind and tide were against me. Plus, I was getting whupped by twenty-five knots of wind at 0700. It would’ve been a long day getting beat up sailing south to Newport had I not just turned Reverie around and reached back to the cove to hang out and read and write for another day. It was a sweet deal of fate to have more slack time. While I watched the osprey do his nest building, I scribbled out an outline for another column and the wind continued to howl and gust from the southwest. Late in the afternoon while noodling on Facebook, a friend posted a thing about writer Tom McGuane having
a Zoom chat that evening on a platform called the “Seattle Town Hall.” I hit the Zoom chat and watched McGuane and Eric M. Johnson discuss fly fishing, literature, and writing. It was a great thing to hear a couple of guys give their take on the work of writing. McGuane is a hero of mine. This guy is a master who I read very closely and assimilate all I can from him. My takeaway from the discussion, was the capability of short fiction i.e., the novella, and most important, was when McGuane said, for him, a writer needs to read lots of good authors, and that writing should be “pleasurable.” Interestingly, while Tom McGuane talked about his work, the stern of my sailboat was aimed directly at his boyhood stomping grounds of Fall River, Massachusetts. McGuane has a great backstory. (Google him.)
Finally, my first sail was fun, the food my wife made me was delicious, I wrote two pleasurable columns, read a good book, and had an easy sail back to Newport in only twenty knots of southwest wind. Win, win, win. Season’s on!