In the early days our wonderful Tartan 27
organization was he-man all the way. All the officers of the Club were men and all the skippers of the boats were men. At first I did not notice this particularly. We joined the organization in 1970 when we bought the boat, and women’s lib
was not high in our society at that time.
I admit, though, that I did feel kind of silly when we went to meetings to plan our very active social and sailing schedule. The men sat in one room doing the planning and the women sat in another room making conversation.
When we first bought our boat I was content to sit on the foredeck and look at all the beautiful natural world around me as we moved through the water. Gradually , however, I began to learn about how the boat should be operated. I could predict when we should come about. I even knew sometimes when the skipper did not. At first I did not say anything but after we went aground a few times I found it hard to keep my mouth shut. Of course a sailboat only functions well with one skipper aboard. When I began to speak up we did not operate as smoothly. Of course we might not be going aground as often, but we had stress in our operation which we did not have when I kept my mouth shut.
This was a gradual process, but eventually I felt I had some rights on the boat that I did not have. The deed for the boat had two signatures, his name and mine. Sinking below the surface with my thinking, I became angry. As the anger turned to resentment I began again to hear the screams of the butterflies. As the screams became louder, I became incensed with them. I flung myself on the bed and writhed with the anger that possessed me. What could I do to ease the pain?
I decided that I would take the boat out alone to prove to myself that I could operate it. When Skipper was out of town on business one week I did just that. I took the boat out on Wednesday and did not come back until Thursday.
I took a simple trip that we had done many times before. I sailed across Chesapeake Bay to Eastern Bay right across from West River where we kept our boat. When I got over there, however, I got an idea that was not too bright. I saw another boat go into a sheltered area behind Poplar Island. It was not a place that Tartan sailors were accustomed to using but, because I saw another boat go in there, it seemed like a good idea. It was going to get dark soon and sheltered spots in Eastern Bay were pretty far up.
“Why don’t I just stay in here?” I asked myself. I had charts along and looked up the entrance. The directions were not very clear, but I assumed I could just follow the boat that was there.
The boat was pretty far ahead. The path was not very clear and I hit bottom a couple of times before I got in far enough to find deep water. I did not cruise around very much to look for an anchoring spot. I realized there was a reason why our Tartan sailors did not use this as an anchorage. It was not very deep. It was already sunset time and too late for me to try anything else.
After I set the anchor, I fixed myself a drink and settled down to enjoy the sunset. It was beautiful as usual. Since I was on the Eastern Shore, the sunset was over the water and I relaxed in all that beauty. I noticed that the other boat went out before dark. No doubt it was a waterman who knew his way home in the dark.
When it got dark, I went below to fix something to eat. While I was there I heard rustling in the water. “What could that be ?” I asked myself.
I went up to look. I found out right away. Skates were swimming around. Everywhere there were skates! Their pointed fins marking a width as great as their length were everywhere.
I saw what must have been hundreds of them. At first I thought I must lam out of there. After all they are sharks and sharks eat people! I was terrified.
I knew on second thought that there was no way I could get out of there in the dark. I would have to wait for high tide and daylight to have any chance at all. So I stayed. I soon realized the sharks presented no danger. I could be in trouble if I were in the water, but I was but I was high out of it on my trusty sailboat.
I began to enjoy the miracle of what was going on. The skates had gathered here from all over areas of the Bay and areas beyond the Bay to mate much like salmon swim up difficult falling waters in the rivers of the west to return to their spawning ground and to deliver their eggs. The skates had gathered here to mate.
I did not sleep much that night. I sat on the deck and watched the constant motion of fins moving through the water as hundreds of skates sought to find their mates. The magic and mystery of life invaded my soul until finally I did stretch out and go to sleep on the deck with the stars of the universe sparkling down on me and the miracle that surrounded Aquarius on anchor. The butterflies did not scream at all that night.
The skates were gone when I awoke the next morning. I did not see a single one as I inched my way out of my precarious anchorage area. As I made my way safely back across the Bay, I realized that women had as much right as men to operate a boat on the sea. I never told anyone about the experience, however. The dance of the skates seemed too sacred to share.
This series begins with Scream of the Butterfly.
Next: Scream of the Butterfly 3.