After the Night Race to St. Mary's, I realized that I needed to do some serious thinking. On Tuesday, my regular single handing practice time, I took Aquarius out to Big Island] and anchored behind it. Big Island is on the Rhode River which branches off West River, our anchorage area. Behind Big Island is a large sheltered area. It is an excellent area for dropping an anchor and spending some quiet time. The area is protected by Big Island on one side and the other side it fades into a shallow area owned by the Smithsonian Institution. This area attracts many kinds of wild life.
It is the place I love the best to be alone, One time when I was out there alone I saw two turkey buzzards teaching their young to soar. I always thought that turkey buzzards soared by instinct. As I watched the lesson, the parents flew high enough to use the high breezes. Then they just put their wings out and let the wind take over. The babies could fly alright, but they had to learn how to lace the wind.
That was an important lesson for me. I have been inclined to think that modern man civilizes our young so much that our young do not understand the importance of instinct. Now, here in nature, I see that training is important in the natural world as well.
Everybody seems to know that I spend lots of time in that anchorage. One time John came through the entrance to the anchorage area. He anchored close to Big Island and quite far from me. The wind was from the south, holding his boat on anchorage with his bow pointed toward me. Thus I could not see much of what was going on in his cockpit. I did not need to see. Thinking about it now raised my rile to the point that I almost jumped overboard to cool me down. When that happened, I just thought it was funny. We all knew why he went skate hunting with his "Lady." It did not occur to me then that he might be doing this for my benefit.
Even stranger was the time Ross powered into the area and came up to Aquarius. I welcomed him and held on to his bow line while we talked. He was one of our friends whose boat lived on our 800 dock. This was a special dock created initially for the Tartans. We do not draw much water when our centerboard is up. Ross had a larger boat but his boat slept outside on the T part of the dock where the boat never got into the shallows.
I was certainly surprised to see Ross. He did not board Aquarius, but he certainly did some looking around. After he left I thought awhile and then I figured it out. Jonah was suspicious about what I might be doing anchoring out there alone. He always had trouble understanding why I needed time alone. I need time with people too, but I have to have some time alone. Well, I do not care if all the people in the world know I am out at Big Island. It is a beautiful place just for that.
On this big planning day, I anchored in the afternoon and planned to stay overnight. I needed this good place to do my serious thinking. I went below and got a pillow. I laid it at the head of the cockpit cushions and laid myself down to relax. There was enough breeze to keep me comfortable and the motion of the boat as it swung on the anchor was soothing. I heard some blue jays squawking on Big Island and the gulls were about with their usual peeping conversation.
I did not go to sleep. The soothing surroundings enabled me to think better. I am not sure when I made the decision to take the trip I had announced so boldly when we were on our way to St. Mary's, but I have decided to do it. In the first place, I have no idea whatsoever where that idea came from. It was as much of a shock to me as it was to John and Jerry. It just happened. The made-up answers I found to their questions at the banquet were reasonable. They were so reasonable that I realized I could do it!
The decision, no doubt, was related to the rainbow. It was then that I decided to live my own life. Now here was a way opening for me so I could do it. I was still angry at John and probably will be as long as I live. Here is a way I could show him what a brave, clever person I really am.
Now, here in this thought-provoking environment, I was going to plan ways to make it happen. The first problem was Jonah. He would not want me to do it. Partly this would be because he would not want me to have all that fun that would not include him. In all fairness to him, though, he also would be afraid of the potential dangers.
Well, we were planning to go on our October cruise with George and Janet. We have done that for several years. George owns a construction business. He has a partner who will take care of things while George is gone so he can take the entire month of October to go on our long cruise. Jonah works for the federal government which allows workers to take long vacations. We have explored many areas of the Bay on these long cruises.
Jonah always likes for me to do as much work as he does. When we are motoring, he drives an hour and I drive an hour. When we are sailing he has the tiller an hour and I have the tiller an hour. If I develop my skills enough this summer I could wait until after the October cruise to show him on the cruise how skillful I am with the boat. Then I could tell him I wanted to make the single handed journey. If he will let me take the boat I will bring it back. If he does not agree to that I will tell him that I will take my car and come back if I feel like it.
That plan sounded so good to me that I decided I should have a drink and watch the sunset. The wind was from the north and holding the boat in the right direction for me to watch the sun set over the marshland. I love sunset time on the boat when nature all around me is settling down for the night. The birds have a sort of good night chorus. The sky becomes bold with its colors proclaiming their glory. If I am lucky I might see a blue heron standing in the shallows and waiting for a lucky thrust for a good night feast.
I soon realized this sunset was special. I had been so excited about my single handed sailing trip down the waterway that I had not been very observant about what was happening in the here and now. A lot was happening. The breeze which usually dies during the sunset hour had quickened. Delicate pinks and orchids were emerging from the horizon and grew stronger as they rose. That sunset was the most beautiful I had ever seen. Placed as it was as I was about to undertake a mysterious journey on my own, I needed to do something to preserve this sunset.
I went below, got my pen and returned to the deck with my flashlight. Here I wrote the following poem.
The sun sends messengers across the sky,
Bold handsome streaks of flame that reach so high
They shout in color tones that once again
Proud Sun resumes his journey down the lane
Of time. And, as hasten to pursue
Their flaming hero as he fades from view,
The dusk creeps slowly through the lonesome space
And jealous Darkness raises his grim face
He spreads his shadow on the hills and trees
With majesty that stills the quiet breeze
Erasing all the memories of the day
And graying all the glimmer in his way.
But just before the black becomes intense
A star gleams through the gloom – full recompense.
As soon as I finished writing the poem, I lay down on my previously prepared cockpit bed and soon went to sleep, confidant that my journey would be filled with beauty,
When I awoke the next morning with the sun shining on my face, I got up quickly with a sense of urgency. I had important planning to do! Janet and I had been discussing the possibility of bringing women's rights to the sea. We had suggested to our husbands the possibility of letting us sail our boats in the Wednesday nights races with an all woman crew. They had laughed at the idea, but they had not said, "No."
"I should have thought of that sooner," I said to myself. "I will stop by Chalk Point on my way back to the slip," I reasoned. "If Janet is home we can talk it over and see if we can schedule it for next week."
She was home, and she agreed to try to set it up after the race that night. She was a little timid about the idea. She is the daughter of the owners of the Yacht Yard and grew up there. She had been sailing all her life, but she had never skippered a race. We decided to trade boats and race one of them on alternate Wednesday nights. We would crew on the other person's boat when we were not racing ours.
Well, it did work out. The men were very generous. They did not even try to race the boat that we were not using. I think they wanted to be free to help us out if we had trouble. We had no trouble at all getting wives of other Tartan sailors to crew. We did not win races as much as our husbands did. The Wednesday night race really required a lot of skill which we did not have, but we had great satisfaction in our accomplishment. Especially me. Boy, was this ever a great opportunity for me to increase my skill in preparation for the trip down the Waterway!
Janet was a much better sailor than I was, but I did better than she with some races. I finally figured out what was going on. I had more skill in handling the crew. She had spent her entire life living at West River. I had lived a varied life that gave me many opportunities that involved handling people. I learned how to handle my boat, though, which was what I was about in this stage of my life.
This series begins with Scream of the Butterfly.
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