Good morning everyone. Just came back from a fantastic weekend at home in Maryland. My parents recently bought a new boat to share with a few other families and this was T's and my first chance to go sailing with them.
My parents have always owned "half" a boat. They and another family would split the docking fees and maintenance costs etc. and pretty much get to sail as much as they want as no one could possibly sail every decent weekend of the year. It's a smart way to enjoy the hobby without having to pay a fortune for it. Here are a few pictures of my brother and I on our old boat, which we kept at Breezy Point, a marina on the Western shore of the Chesapeake Bay (and one of the best places to find sharks teeth on the beach).
That boat was 23 feet long, which is fairly small for a sail boat. It was built some time in the 70's. There was just enough room for a cabin, but you had to duck your head to fit inside. My parents bought the boat from my grandparents and then sold half of it to a co-worker of my Father's. We sailed that thing for years and years, and the whole time, it was sort of falling apart. The centerboard wouldn't go down. The fiberglass hull was turning to dust. The outboard motor (for getting in and out of the marina) would only start about half the time. It was a great boat for my brother and I to learn to sail on and it was very comfortable for a day out with the family, but it was also getting more and more difficult to sail without something breaking. We stopped going a few years ago because it just was too much for my Dad, the real sailor of our family, to handle along with his chronic pain issues. Last year we finally sold the boat outright to someone who was looking for an older, cheaper boat to fix up.
That was really sad. It meant saying goodbye to a major part of my childhood and all those good memories on the water. A few years went by without any sailing and we all missed it. Then a friend of my Mother's suggested we buy a 1/3 share of their sailboat. My parents didn't even hesitate. They made an offer right away, so now we have access to a sailboat again!
The new boat is probably ten feet longer, has a full size cabin, and all sorts of extra equipment that makes sailing so much easier (the gennaker sailing sock - wow, what a great idea). Sailing is one of those things where you don't even realize how much you've missed it until you get back onto the boat. You just feel so alive and happy. Unlike motorboating, it's a very quiet experience; just the sounds of the boat cutting through the water and the breeze in the sails. We always pack a picnic and just putter around with no real goal other than to enjoy being outside in each other's company.
I know how to sail pretty decently in fair weather so I took over for a while. God, it felt great to feel that wind in my hands again.
...But there was a bit of a learning curve. I've only sailed boats that have a tiller, which you use to steer the boat. You push the tiller in the opposite direction that you want to go. The new boat is large enough to have a helm, which you steer just as if you were driving a car. This meant I was all flipped around and kept turning the helm the wrong way, especially when the weather helm kept wanting to turn the boat into the wind. I'd correct the wrong way before realizing my mistake.
The wind died in the middle of the day, as it does, so we took a little swim to cool off.
We saw ospreys everywhere. These are such a symbol of home to me. They eat fish and build nests on the channel markers (and highway lights and telephone poles and pretty much anything that's up high near the water). It's no exaggeration to say we saw at least twenty or more while we were out.
There were two osprey mates on this nest right before I took the picture, which reminded me of this children's book I grew up with. I found it again at home. It was called, Sid and Sal's Famous Channel Marker Diner by Priscilla Cummings. I loved this book. It was such a cute idea. Basically, two ospreys move into a channel marker on the Chesapeake Bay and open a little seafood diner, which other birds patronize. They go through the same problems most small business owners do: no customers, obnoxious location, spousal arguments. When you see real ospreys hanging out on their nests, it's not hard to imagine them as an old married couple in the neighborhood, so this book always rang true to me.
Unfortunately, I think Sid and Sal's is out of print, which isn't too surprising. Ospreys are very familiar to me, but I can imagine they don't mean much to other people outside of the Chesapeake Bay region and other watery parts of the world (Louisiana maybe).
Priscilla Cummings also wrote the Chadwick the Crab books, but those weren't nearly my favorite. Still, she also came up with perhaps the greatest title ever for her other book, Toulouse the Canada Goose. Cummings actually visited my school around 1991 and my copy of Sid and Sal's is signed by her (although dedicated to my brother). My school was really great about hosting local authors and my mother always bought the book for us. Anyway, I don't remember Cummings's visit, but I read this book many times as child. Great illustrations. Great story.
I wish we lived closer to Maryland so we could go sailing more often. I'd like to teach T to sail too. I may look into dingy rentals on Jordan Lake. Little boats, like Lasers and Flying Juniors, are a great way to learn.
Anyway, I certainly feel rejuvenated for the upcoming week. Work doesn't seem so bad when your weekends are fun! Next weekend we're going camping.
Do any of you sail or boat? Do you have another hobby that makes you feel alive? Please share!
Writer, editor, scientist.