“I cannot not sail.”
I had planned to write an homage to Reverie today, which is a day after the 12 November Purple Flag day at the Point Judith ferry docks. The wind showed up from the east southeast at 0700 just as predicted, and the ferry was canceled because of adverse sea conditions. It was a nasty mix of wind, big seas and rain off Block
Island, Point Judith, and Newport. When I got to Reverie to crunch out my column about this old careworn boat, I was surprised to see how very little water had leaked into her starboard side. A couple of years ago she got beat up at her winter slip in some serious hurricane-force winds and sustained some deck damage. I fixed the rail as best as I could and as there was no structural damage to Reverie’s rigging I just patched her up and went sailing; she’s a beat-up old boat but she
still sails beautifully. My new nickname for her is Warhorse.
In my view there are two types of recreational boat owners. You have folks who actually use their boats and folks who don’t. I’ve seen guys washing, waxing and polishing their boats while never leaving the dock. Those owners find great satisfaction keeping their boats looking pristine; I’ll bet my nickels those same owners probably keep their lawns perfect, too. So the drill for those guys might be: water the grass, and then go wash the boat. And, then sit on the dock and hang on their boat—and maybe do more polishing. I completely understand the grass-watering and boat-polishing guys. I get it; however, I’m not that guy. Over the years I’ve owned sailboats for the following simple reasons: I like to sail and get the wind in my face, read a book, eat some grub, and then go home. Sometimes I might sail
somewhere and flop for a night or two. Moreover, I like to write on my boat which I call my Shed. “If a man wants to stay married, he’d better have a shed.” Anonymous. Ahem, there’s lots of truth in this nod to a happy marriage. Just sayin’.
I’ve worked to keep all the boats I’ve owned looking as good as they possibly could. However, I was clearly more interested in how the boat sailed rather than how slick it looked; it’s always been about performance and how balanced the boat feels while sailing upwind. In Newport Harbor there are many head-turning boats to be seen and sometimes I can get fetched up into thinking how nice it might be to have a slick and shiny rig. But, I know myself, as does my wife. We both know that let’s say I bought a lottery ticket, and won some dough and I bought a spanking brand new Hinckley Sou’wester or a J-44. We both know that before long the new sailboat would be scratched, dinged, scuffed and faded. And, that quick fixes would involve Duct Tape and Flex Tape, and said quick fixes would probably never get repaired
properly. It’s how I roll. Given all this practical and insightful knowledge, a new boat would not be a good idea. At the time that Reverie got beat up in the aforementioned hurricane-force winds, Covid 19 was in the offing. My wife said in her direct, and matter-of-fact way, “The world’s having a pandemic, you’re alive, go sailing in the boat you have.” Although I was noodling the idea of a newer older boat, I concurred with her position. The word "alive" hit me like a sledge hammer when my wife made this clear and loaded life observation, which really begged the question of what in life is actually important.
My hero E. B. White was a writer’s writer who loved to sail his boat up in Maine. He wasn’t fond of gadgets on a boat; he just liked to sail them and think of stuff. (I can relate to E. B.) His attitude of sailing was simple, direct and precise, just like his writing. In the above quote by White, he doesn’t say I cannot not sail a boat in Bristol condition; which for the non-nautical reader means a boat that is in perfect condition. He is just saying in a larger context that sailing is an integral part of his
life. I often sail alone because I like to be in my own head and just think, and sailing has always allowed me that simple activity. However, the people who do end up on my boat sailing with me have one thing in common, and that is that they just love being out on the water and enjoying the moment. It has nothing to do with what Reverie looks like. Furthermore, when you’re sailing your own boat the last thing on your mind is how pretty the boat looks; you’re too busy sailing. Well, maybe the guys who polish and shine up their boats do, but I’ll go out on a limb, and say that even those guys are just happy to be out with the wind in their faces.
My new nickname for Reverie—Warhorse—came like most nicknames do in that they reflect something germane to what’s being referred to. Reverie is an old beat-up sailboat yet she sails just as good as she did when I bought her 15 years ago. In fact, I like this boat more now than when I first acquired her. I love every flaw of this great sailboat. When I’m flying downwind on a fat broad reach going seven knots the last thing on my mind is what the boat looks like; it’s more about how the boat is moving through the water. How she feels going downwind or upwind erases all other thoughts. It’s about the moment; it’s about life. Finally, that’s it, that’s all sailing is; it’s just life and this old Warhorse will sail his boat until he can’t anymore. ‘Nuff said.