I'm sailing for fun today. Last time I did that was back in late August sometime. It's about 50 degrees, drizzling, with a light 5-10 knot northerly. I'm excited about getting on the water.
I guess I'm really a coach now, because I can't really enjoy these pictures. In each one of the photos I notice and fixate on something that someone is doing wrong. Except for the picture with boat 2 sailing alone, and the sun setting. But even that: it's still light. Why are they heading in already? I see a missed opportunity for a few extra minutes of practice.
My parents are just back from cruising on their new boat, and my mom has posted some pictures. It is this glimpse of Maine -- the islands of Penobscot Bay, the seals on the rocks and the piney shores and the shaded ferns waving from the wooded paths, the different blue-pinks of water and sky and a boat to row back to when you're done exploring. This is why I love this place so much.
Spent all day waiting for wind. It never came to Tufts. It came, a tiny bit, to MIT at around 3 PM. Before it arrived I sat with my assistant coach talking about other ways to determine the outcome of the regatta. We discussed various games of chance, and then my assistant coach expounded on the idea of a mascot fight. Our mascot is particularly fierce; we probably wouldn't lose to anyone but a team out in the Pacific whose mascot is the killer whale (although I thought the Jumbos might have a shot at us). My assistant coach had given the matter of a mascot fight a good deal of thought, but it was new to me. Who would win, a Seahawk or a Mariner? Would Big Green beat Crimson? The Beavers would beat the Big Green, we thought (since beavers chop down trees, which are big and green, all the time). My assistant was very dismissive of Stanford's Cardinals, until I suggested that the Cardinals might be able to get the bishops and the pope, and perhaps even the Lord Himself, to help in the standoff. Oooh. I didn't think of that, he said. Catamounts, Bobcats, or Wildcats? Trick question: the Terriers would beat all of them. But could the Terriers beat the Bulldogs? Thankfully, the wind filled in.
My pal Turboglacier has a great post today about how he is not sailing around the world right now.
I don't have a lot to add to the particular melancholy / wisdom of his post. But one thing I get to see pretty clearly in my job as a coach of college students is what different people we are when we are young. My college students are different from me in some significant ways. This is not news to anyone who has been 22. But we forget, if we don't sit side by side with young people, the ways that we change. My ideas about time, and my ideas about money, my willingness to compromise, my sense of what I can and can't accomplish, all of these things are very different than they once were, and different from the way my college students see the world. I'm not sure if getting older is a gift or a loss. Probably both. I don't know if I see the world more clearly or less, with the accumulation of these extra 10 years of defeats and life lessons and disappointments and unexpected gifts.
I've been thinking about my own goals, lately, and my own expectations about life. I'm dating a man who lives 800 miles away, so I've been thinking about my attachment to this place, and to what extent it has governed me so far. What would life be like if I left Maine? Who would I be if I lived away from the coast? I've been thinking about sailing, of course, and how I want to start doing some blue water passagemaking. It's never interested me before but I'm ready, now, to learn a lot more about bigger boats, bigger seas, longer distances.
My parents called me tonight. They've been off cruising on the boat they bought this summer. All my life my father, a sailmaker, has spent his summers sailing on his customers' boats. It's great that they finally have a boat to head away on where there's no obligation to make sure other people are enjoying themselves. Anyway, they called and said they were in Quahog Bay, just around the point from where we practice. I jumped in the whaler after practice to meet them for a drink. I found my digital camera and goofed around with it, taking pictures of myself while I drove there. When I look at them I gasp a little bit with pleasure. This is my office. This is where I work every day. How on earth did I get so lucky? You can see all the pictures here.
On the way home it was dark dark dark, and the sky was full of stars. You forget, when you don't spend nights on the water, how many stars there really are. I drove back slowly, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness. The air was cold -- not quite frosty, but in the 40s, certainly. Besides a few cottage lights on the shore and the blinking of an airplane going across the sky, it was just me and the stars and the pines, with the quiet breathing of the seaweed on the rocky shores. Beautiful.
It's the college sailing season, so a lot of what I'm thinking about is logistics: have we picked up the van, is there gas in the motorboat, I need to order this part, what's the breeze going to be like on Wednesday, don't forget to call this person back, etc.
I'm thinking a lot about video, and how to take good footage and then what to do with the footage to best use it as a teaching tool. The college has some pretty cool equipment and very cool software that lets you do motion analysis, mark up the video and highlight things, but I haven't learned how to work it yet. I'm still learning the basic stuff, like where the buttons on the camera are, and how to insert the little cassettes. I have some footage and I've been viewing it to isolate some moments that demonstrate movements, right and wrong. It's very time intensive. So I'm mulling a lot about video, and how to incorporate it this season as a coach. I am not yet able to drive the motorboat, film sailors, and watch critically at the same time, let alone do all that and make sure the drill is running right. So there's a lot to figure out.
I'm thinking about food, what to eat and how to stay healthy. I keep forgetting meals, and then eating junk. I remember last year, how often I pulled through a drive through after practice, desperate for something because I'd forgotten to eat. That's not how I want to live. So I'm thinking about shopping lists, packing myself healthy lunches and dinners and snacks, when to shop and how to prep so when I come off the water and I'm tired I can eat something good on the way home, then make a quick and healthy dinner before I sit down to watch video or plan the next day's practice or respond to emails.
I'm thinking about Mr. Next Big Thing, most of the time. Sometimes I'm thinking about the fact that I'm thinking about him so much, and alternately worrying and grinning. This is not like any relationship I've been in for years. For someone who writes about my life here on the Internet, I'm really pretty emotionally guarded, pretty fond of my independence and my wide ranging social circle, pretty reluctant to get too attached to any one person. But somehow that's not the case with him. t feels terrific, and it makes me realize just how walled off I have been. To those who tried to date me in the past, I'm sorry. I'm thinking about logistics with him, too, because he's 800 miles away, and sometimes I have to talk myself down because I'm worrying about things that are too far away. He comes here in October. We'll see what happens then.
I'm not thinking about: my car (a used Jetta I bought from my mechanic last week), what I'm reading (Nabokov's Pnin, which I am underwhelmed by), or all the friends I'm out of touch with. Or very much else, truth be told.
The students are back on campus and life has changed. Zoom. Yesterday we moved boats and put up masts, cleared out the boathouse attic and stowed the sails, scrubbed the motorboats and organized the tools. Today we weed whack and mow and finish prepping the boats and go sailing and get physicals from the athletic trainers. Classes start Thursday; until then I'll probably be a little scarce around here. I love the noisy hubbub of college students, but it's such a dramatic change of gears.
The sky is dark so early, too, and when I wake up it's still dark. Summer is over.
Last night I did the Thursday Night casual race with my friend Mac Daddy on his cozy cruiser. Ruby came too, with a girlfriend, so we decided to deem it ladies night on Mac Daddy's boat. We insisted that he wear a temporary tattoo, and then at the weather mark we donned feather boas and gave him the pink wig to wear. It was a slow and comfortable procession around Clapboard Island for the cruising boats, while the racers went up the bay towards Diamond Island. Sunshine, a light but steady breeze, and we were sneaking up on our cruising nemesis and trying to hold off the fast racing boat that was sailing in the cruising division.
And then the sky got black to the west. Not black -- a thick, deep grey, and, scarier to me, a sort of eerie teal grey-green that you only see in serious thundersqualls. We watched it a little bit and then I suggested that we furl the jib, take down the main, and head in. We put away the boat pretty quickly. Several other cruisers were doing the same, and we could see some of the racers across the bay dropping their sails.
We were put away, sailcover on, and motoring in by the time it hit, but it hit fast and suddenly: a wall of water and instant whitecaps. The wind instrument read 31 knots when I looked at it; that was a steady speed, and I expect the gusts were higher. The rain was horizontal, and visibility was severely reduced. I was worrying about my friends who were out, on the racers' course, in an Etchells -- no motor, no cover. I called the skipper, but she didn't answer her phone. I asked our skipper if we could motor out to them to check whether they needed assistance, and radioed the race committee that we were doing so. He had abandoned the race and when I told him the location of the Etchells he drove the RC boat in that direction. Another big cruiser who'd headed into the anchorage ahead of us turned around, presumably to rescue the smaller boats who hadn't taken their sails down before the squall hit.
Our friends in the Etchells were being towed in by a J/110, we confirmed. The Race Committee spotted an overturned vessel near Cow Island and was on the scene, summoning the Coast Guard and rendering assistance. We notified them that we were standing by to aid anyone who needed it. The small boats were limping in okay. The wind dropped down to about 18 knots -- windy but manageable, and the rain softened. We proceeded to our mooring and took cover. I watched a lobster boat towing in a small sailboat. A moored boat's roller furled jib had come loose and was flapping helplessly. On the VHF radio a trimaran with a tiny outboard gave its location to the Race Committee boat to get a tow in.
We sat on our mooring for a while as it got dark outside, below deck with the cabin lights on, eating cheese and crackers and listening to the rain falling on deck. On the launch and the dock people were trading tales of near escapes. One J/24 hadn't yet come in, but the skipper and crew are very experienced and I expect they headed south or took cover across the bay. I don't know the details of the overturned vessel in Cow Island passage yet, but I think the rescue was well under control by the Coast Guard.
It was a night that reminded me how fast things can turn on the water, and how important it is to have working equipment readily accessible -- lifejackets, radio, anchor, tow lines, flares. It also reminded me of the capability and seamanship of the people in the area -- people were on hand to render assistance to boats who needed it. I've never seen a storm come through so quickly. The most casual sail can become an extreme situation in the space of a couple of minutes.
Before and after photos from the evening.