I had planned for it all year and continuously reminded my wife, Meg, about it so she could mentally prepare to have the 3 kids on her own for the weekend. I was finally going to go to the Catboat Association “Bass River Rendezvous” and spend a night on Marsaili, my 1973 Marshall Sanderling. I had slept on her a couple of times at the mooring, but never had a chance to take her to a distant shore overnight. I bought the boat in October 2011 and our 3rd baby came in Oct 2012. Kids have a knack for sucking up all of your time.
The weekend arrived and I made plans to head down to Cape Cod on Friday night while Meg elected to stay home in Stow, MA with the kids. Great! On the 2-hour ride down, I started to have a change of heart. The Bass River meet-up sounded great, but I was starting to feel that my first adventure should be a solo journey and not one filled with other cat boaters helping me at every turn. Today, I was a pirate and I had new lands to discover and villages to pillage. I debated it over and over right up until I reached the end of the channel in Hyannis. Bass River was east. I headed west.
I had planned out an alternate to Bass River just in case and my destination was to be Cotuit, MA. I did a little research and emailed a CBA friend in Mashpee to get some opinions on anchorages. It looked and sounded like Cotuit offered a beautiful day of sailing, some interesting explorations, and good anchorages. Marsaili and I were under full sail and heading through Lewis Bay for the Hyannis channel by noon.
The wind at the mouth of the channel was very light. With the giant ferries and power boats racing by, the seas were big and confused. Marsaili slammed her rigging around like an angry child. I fired up the outboard and headed straight out to sea in hopes of some wind and calmness or at least consistency in the waves. Thankfully, about a mile off shore, I picked up about 10kts and was cruising along nicely with a 2’ chop. The feeling of peace and isolation on a boat even just a couple miles off shore is tough to describe. It’s as if you are totally alone at sea and it is just you and your boat against the world. If I could get this feeling just a couple miles out, I can only imagine what someone like Joshua Slocum must have felt. It is magical, euphoric and therapeutic 2 miles out. I would imagine you could add words like terrifying, spiritual, and life-changing to trans-Atlantic adventures.
I sailed for a couple of wonderfully uneventful hours and found myself at the entrance to Cotuit Bay. The channel was tight, so I doused the sail and motored in. On the other side of a dune marking the entrance to the bay, boats of all sizes were anchored for the day and either swimming and exploring or just relaxing. It looked like a beautiful spot to anchor, but I was looking for something a bit less crowded and something with a bit more peace and quiet. I waved to the various folks in their boats and motored on.
As I pulled through the small channel I noticed an odd boat directly off my starboard bow. The boat was entirely varnish. It looked to be about 18’ long and was built lapstrake with a dark, rich brown wood. She had 2 small sprit-rigged sails fore and aft. Inside the boat, two young men and a woman sat smiling on the floor of the boat. The men were dressed in Panama hats, bright polo shirts and bright pattern board shorts. The woman was stunning with long jet-black hair, almond skin, a string bikini and a straw sun hat. These folks struck me more as the type that would hire someone to build such a boat rather than have built it themselves. It wasn’t that I felt that they were wealthy, because about 75% of the people on the Cape dress that way. It was more that they didn’t strike me as the type of guys that would labor for days in a woodshop building boats. I decided to test my theory and turned down the iron wind to a dull roar.
“Howdy,” I said as they glided up to me under sail in the light winds.
To be perfectly honest, at this point, my eyes met sharply with the girl’s and I had to fight my brain to get a look at the boat. She did not give in at first as our stares went from the 2 second courtesy glance into the 10 second intentional gaze. Clearly my eyes were having a hard time deciding which was prettier, her or the boat. She seemed to recognize my struggle, tossed me a coy smile, pulled her hat low over her eyes, and lied back against the frame amidships.
“Thank you,” said the man controlling the tiller. “Is that a Marshall?
“She is,” I said, delighted that I was talking to person that knows his catboats. “1973!”
“Thank you,” I said proudly almost forgetting why I turned down the motor for the gam. “How about yours? Did you make that? She is gorgeous!”
The young girl tipped her hat up and smirked at me again as if we had just shared an inside joke.
“I didn’t. My father did,” he replied.
“Well you tell him that he did a wonderful job. She’s a beaut.”
Our boats continued to glide past each other and we said our goodbyes. The girl tipped up the brim of her hat as our boats parted. She was still wearing that coy smile and look on her face as if she had a secret to tell. She gave me that feminine wave where only the fingers move in succession and slowly mouthed the word “bye” with her lips exaggerating the motion.
It is that feeling you get when you’re 40+ years old with a wife and 2.5 kids at home and you go to some popular watering hole for the first time in a long, long time. After a couple of beverages, you find an attractive woman flirting with you. It is harmless, but the psychological benefits are immense. You feel good about yourself, confident, and attractive. The phrase, “I still got it” circles around in your head. Whether or not this girl’s advancing glances were real or entirely created by my over-active imagination, it was a wonderful boost for my ever-fluctuating ego. I thought surely, this beautiful woman must want to sail away to distant shores with this salty pirate and leave the chains of her high-society life behind. Surely.
I watched as it sailed away. The boat was truly a work of craftsmanship and I hope that those kids are able to appreciate and care for their father’s creation for the next generation or two. The girl never looked back and I chalked up our mini-mental love affair to yet another episode of my over-adventurous imagination. I’m sure my wife would have agreed.