Summer of 2021
On 21 September, 2021 summer was packed and stowed into the archives along with some memorable files that stand out, and require a journalistic observation from this sailing scribbler of nouns and verbs. Sailing a boat slows things down so we can actually see things that we’d normally miss while zipping down the highways, byways and waterways on our way to somewhere - important. Moreover, while internetting we can get so webbed up that we don’t stop to smell the roses or seaweed as we scurry like gazelles from one “important” topic to another. We can get so dialed into the screen that we miss some good, unique and natural stuff. Don’t get me wrong. I’m guilty of this effortless cyber range roving; however, I rationalize my internetting to the context that I’m creating a timeline, and a scrapbook of memories which may serve me—down the road—with my writing or desire for distractions and yuks. I liken the internet to a vast digital scrapbook; however, there is nothing like the real thing, and sailing a boat alone is a very real thing. And, sailing a boat is a blast.
On 22 August this summer we experienced a hurricane for our collective old-school or digital scrapbooks for the Summer of 2021. The week before the event the internet and local news stations were hot to trot out important intel about a possible Cat
4 hurricane named Henri, who was coming to pay us a visit here on the south coast and Block Island. I first got wind of this blow while at work in the standby lot when someone told me that a guy named Jim Cantore was in town with a camera crew scoping
out the possible wrath of this mass of nasty weather. On the internet I saw a picture of this guy at Roger Wheeler State Beach, and George’s of Galilee, about 24 hours before this thing would possibly make landfall. Here was the guy on a perfectly calm
beach day flooding the weather zone with his take/spin on this raucous storm. (I found this hilarious on a perfect beach day. Just sayin’.) The internet was buzzing regarding this storm and my kids and other folks I know from points west were wishing Cindy, Sailor, Maddox and I luck and safety during this storm. This well-developed ‘cane looked like it could be interesting so people along the coast and islands did their preparations and then went into a standard wait and see drill. I listened to NOAA, and tried to remain objective while thinking of the possible wind direction and tide scenarios.
In the past I’ve experienced a few decades of nasty weather, and Hurricane Sandy stands out as a benchmark weather event. This was a terrible coastal storm and did some serious flooding at the ferry landing in Point Judith. Furthermore, Sandy caused
losses in the billions, and sadly much loss of life along the New England coast. This hurricane made an east coast landfall as a Cat 3 storm. I was at work during Sandy and watched the water breach the bulkhead at high tide, and then flood the main ferry
building with a substantial amount of water. So, rather than listen to weather stations and Jim Cantore cranking out updates and possible Cat 4 outcomes, I chose to remember other storms I’ve witnessed in Point Judith for perspective. The media’s frenetic weather updates were frequently stomping on each other so I tuned them out and slowed down to figure out what actions I could actually take. Subsequently, I had a diver put an extra line on my mooring and sailboat. I grabbed some ice for the freezer in
case we lost electrics, grabbed extra dog food, grabbed some candles and then waited to see what tomorrow would bring. The next morning after driving by the Purple Flagged ferry docks I went to George’s to see what the wind and tide were doing. The
tide would turn at about noon, and the wind was out of the northeast at about forty-five to fifty-five knots. My concerns for flooding at home vanished. While I watched the ocean I made a little video of how bad the storm was evolving while taking some snaps of a guy swimming in the shore break in front of the restaurant. Two other guys with goggles on watched their shoes get washed off the beach. Funny stuff. In my video I also caught a random dragger coming in from an offshore fishing trip. It was, as my wife said in her understated way, “Kind of a dud, huh?” Cantore blew town to look for another storm, Henri lost his punch and we all dodged a bullet. Win, win, win.
On the eve of the last day of summer, we saw a full moon at 100 percent of its brightness. At dusk I had just sailed into Potter’s Cove on Prudence Island and was squaring away the boat in the anchorage before supper. I looked east toward the Mount Hope Bridge and Sakonnet while the moon was just popping up from below the horizon. It was intense watching this moment, which I futilely tried to capture with my iPhone. While eating supper I sat in the cockpit of my boat, and there wasn’t a sound in the cove. It was a simple moment while watching an extraordinary sight. I rose the next morning and saw the massive and clear moon dip below the western sky while I drank my coffee. Peace and quiet in real time.
I sailed out of the cove on the last day of summer and saw that the upper bay was empty. I saw no commercial traffic and one guy digging quahogs on the beach. As I passed the T Wharf at the south end of the island the wind began to slack. The tide was outgoing and I just drifted toward Gould Island and read a book called “Steaming to Bamboola,” by Christopher Buckley. (There was literally not one boat to be seen on the upper and lower bay on this last day of summer.) Buckley’s book is a story about the old school, ragtag nature of sailing as a merchant mariner back in the 60s and 70s. It’s a book I reread often for the simple style of Buckley’s prose. It’s a classic, funny and informative boat book to read while drifting. Finally, sometimes I wonder if I’m a sailor, or just a reader who happens to have a boat where he sails somewhere to simply, read. The conundrum continues. Happy fall on us all!