Day-sail: To the islands!


by philip scott wikel
(originally published in SALT magazine)

I was to meet Dunby at the harbor at 7:00 for a day-sail to the islands. A bit of forethought had prompted me to set up the coffeemaker for 6:00. Upon waking I was greeted by the sweetly bitter fragrance of “french roast” brewing in the kitchen.

Outside the day was warm and still, the kind of day you don’t usually expect until late June or early July, but when it comes in March, it’s more than welcome. It’s the kind of day that, after a long rainy winter, reacquaints you with summer and the promise of the sun.

I arrived at the harbor and made my way to “C” dock. Dunby was there already, wrestling with the main sail cover and grumbling about this or that to himself, the echoes of which reflected off the still water like the maniacal ravings of a troll under an abandoned bridge.

“Mornin’ Hadley,” I said, alerting him to my presence.
“Oh, good morning Jack,” he returned, as if shaken from a sound sleep.
“Problem with the main?”
“Naw, just need a new sail cover is all,” he said, his kiwi accent resurfacing.
“Some coffee?, I asked, holding up my thermos.
“Naw, already had too much.”
“What can I do then.”
“You wanna check the outboard, we’re gonna have to motor out until the wind picks up.”

I stepped on to the boat.

“Nice day huh?”

By 8:00 o’clock we had cleared the harbor mouth and a fresh wind had begun to wrinkle the channel. Dunby set the main and took over the tiller while I sat and watched the town grow smaller and smaller, looking more and more like Menton or even Nice.

“Strange town isn’t it?, I said, feeling the initial rush of having gotten underway.
“Yeah, nice from here.”

In the middle of the channel the wind began to rise and the coastline was blurred by a light haze. The main was filling and Dunby shut off the motor. He then made a strained glance to the northwest, gave me the tiller and started securing whatever needed to be secured, then reefing the main. When he sat down, I sensed, at least for a moment that he’d settled a bit.

“So how’s it goin’ Hadley.”

“Life, you know man, money, work, what’s it all about?

“Well we’re out here now, it’s all back there, hang out.”

“We’ll be going back later.”

“But we’re not there now.”

“I know what you mean, just a bit stressed I guess.”

“It’s not that you’re carrying all that, it’s that you have all that to carry,” I quoted.

“I know, Simplify, I’m not in the mood for that crap today.”

“I know what you mean.” It was best not to push it, he needed to be quiet.

We reached the island at its northeastern end and decided to go around behind it and hide from the wind, and other things, while we had some lunch.

Explanation of daysail:

For me, the character Dunby represents America. Hiding on the leeward side of the island represents America’s unwillingness to face the winds of change and its tendency to prefer apathy and complacency over bravery and hard work.

In real life, the trip back to the mainland was hellish; winds at 20-30 knots and waves 6-8 feet. But having braved the elements, our arrival back on the mainland was so much the sweeter.


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