I spent the weekend with seven college sailors, and a dozen or so ghosts. We were up in Castine, Maine, a landscape that has many layered associations for me. As I drove the twelve passenger van around curves and looked out at the brown-green fields and the sweeping views of the bay, I smiled at the memories that came back to me. I remembered sailing there on big boats when I was in high school, sitting up late with the crew of the J/35 I sailed on, and kissing a boy on the dock one long summer night eighteen years ago. I remembered driving up there in an old minivan when I was in college for a regatta fifteen years ago, and thought about the team members who were on that trip with me, and laughed at the memory. I still remember the music we listened to on that drive, and where we stopped for dinner, and where in the van I sat. I remembered moving to the area after college with my schooner captain boyfriend ten years ago, and driving to Blue Hill to see friends, coveting all the homes for sale along the way. I remembered being there this summer, with my long distance sweetie, eating muffins from the bakery he loves and watching a family attempt to launch a Herreshoff 12 1/2. On the dock, I overheard fragments of conversation of the sailors from thirteen colleges, and a door in my memory vault swung open and let out the echoes of conversations my younger self and my college friends had had years ago.
Indeed, I even saw a ghost. He was sitting at a picnic table on the town waterfront, looking out across the harbor at the cove where the college racers were sailing. I was in a big launch with one of my sailors, returning to the race course from a bathroom break ashore. My chest constricted for a moment when I recognized him, and I felt glad and sad at the same time, surprised to see him and not surprised all at once. I lifted my arm to wave to him, and the sailor who was talking to me turned her head to see who it was. He waved back, and I watched him get smaller as my sailor turned back to me and continued the question she was asking, and the sturdy launch droned us across the harbor, back to the racing.