“I’m not going to have anything to write about.”
“It’s pretty windy,” she said.
“I don’t think that gets literary until the terns are flying backwards.”
“We passed a boat.”
“That thing looked like a coffin that someone tied a broom to. We’re supposed to pass that.”
“No, the other one,” she got out her telephone to find the picture she took, but I didn’t look at it.
“The pilothouse with the unfurling main?”
“What’s an unfurling main?”
“A furling main that’s obviously too labor-intensive to unfurl. Or broken. They’re often broken.”
“You’re in a good mood.”
“Well, if Odysseus passed The Unenthusiastic Pilothouse of Peloponnesia, it didn’t make the book.”
And so it went.
When I first got into sailing, I used to get sailing magazines (magazines were large but thin books made of shiny paper that were mailed to people’s homes so that they had something to read in the bathroom). I don’t think I even paid for them. I think I signed up for something at a boat show and they would just show up, each with a calamitous warning about how this was the last one they’d send if I didn’t give them money, month after month. They often started with a one-page article that was essentially Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man sketch, but tweaked for sailing and barely comprehensible. In my day, we didn’t have “Louis Vuitton” sail bags. We put our sails in a burlap potato sack, and we liked it! There were so many levels on which I didn’t get it. In my day, we didn’t have “Cetol” so that we could finish our teak within our own lifespans. We just rubbed it down with bacon grease every morning, and it would run off in the sun and get all over the deck and make a huge mess, and if you were lucky a seagull would come and try to eat it because then you could snatch it up and put it in your rucksack and have something for dinner, and we LIKED it. Almost every article contained the word SWMBO, always with a parenthetical explanation of its meaning. One weekend I was leaving to go sailing with a billionaire and SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) pointed out that my Sperry Topsiders smelled like cat pee. The old ball and chain, at it again, right fellas? It was just so bonkers.
And also, it made me constantly ask myself, “How do I not have this job?” I realize that there aren’t a ton of openings for “sailing humorist” (not in this economy, right fellas?), but we’ve got to be able to do better than watered down Borscht Belt jokes picked up from Johnny Carson’s show. If you want a sardonic take on how lame everything is, ask a Gen Xer. It is our oxygen. But I guess I’d have to sail with billionaires and know someone who stores their jib in a Louis Vuitton bag and have the experience of growing up as some kind of Dickensian dinghy ragamuffin. Or at least do more interesting sailing than passing nothing boats in a nowhere bay in mildly energetic weather.
Which is what we did.
I went back and forth on whether to reef while at the dock, and eventually decided that it would be easier to shake it out if it was unnecessary. Then there were whitecaps in the creek and I wasn’t sure if we’d even be able to fly the whole jib.
The wind was probably around 20kts and nearly perpendicular to the bay, which made it difficult to tell which way to go with no particular destination in mind. My standard preference would be to sail into the wind first and be able to return with it, but it looked like it would be on the beam in either direction. We opted for north, and sailed up to Marker 38 with one reef in the main and a partially furled 135. We turned around and sailed down past the creek and continued south. On that leg we were slightly more downwind, and I unfurled the rest of the jib.
We made excellent time and sailed down past the Oyster Creek Channel toward Waretown. When we ran out of deep water, we turned around and started making our way back. From where we were, the path back had us close hauled, but the wind had calmed down somewhat and we weren’t overpowered with the full jib. I was mostly concerned that we’d have to throw in a bunch of tacks and was focused on taking every lift to try to thread the needle. At one point, I lost track of where Marker BI was and had to pull up the chart, and it turned out that we’d blown past it and were half way to 40. We were going so fast that it was disorienting.
We passed everything. We sailed past a small sailboat that looked like it was made out of sheets of plywood. We passed a big pilothouse flying only a jib. We passed a really pretty boat with a sail insignia that I couldn’t recognize, but I’m going to guess was a Robinhood 36.
No one passed us, and we never shook out the reef.
We sailed on past the creek for a victory lap. It was one of those days when I could have just kept going—sail somewhere where we could buy enough food and underpants to get us to the next harbor and then sail off again. Have calling cards printed and delivered to subsequent port that would introduce me as a “sailing humorist” and sail away before anyone questions it. No land-based obligations. 15kts on the beam and go.
But in reality, we eventually returned to the dock. Instead of sailing off into the sunset, we went to a local tiki bar and got a 2-star dinner for a 4-dollar-sign price. There was a band setting up as we were walking out, and I considered asking SWMBO (She Who Makes allowances for her Beau’s Orneriness) if we could stay and watch them, but I saw the guitar player’s chartreuse Charvel and kept going. There’s definitely some distance between a general-purpose wistful wanderlust and an immediate need to leave a bar before a bachelorette party tries to stumble in unison to a Def Leppard song, but it felt good to sail away from something.