Back from Blubber Bay



                You set the sails up at the wharf: two reefs in the main, self-tending staysail, and the outer jib. You let go the bow line; the stern line; then, she drifted away from the dock. The northerly wind grabbed a hold of her and churned her waterline so it frothed with vengeance.

The rail was almost buried, but she surged ahead, tore through the sea towards the Island. Spray cascaded over the bow.

You pulled hard against the tiller. The outer jib pulled like a race horse who espied the finish line. You had to rein her in. You put the tiller hard over and held it there, and waited for her to heave-to. When she settled, the wind skipped off her mainsail. The stay-sail and outer jib were back-winded. You explained to Sara as you both sat in the cockpit and talked into her ear over the wind that raged: listen, I’ve got to bring down the outer jib; you’ve got to hold this tiller with both hands hard over, just the way it is now; hold it there and don’t let go. She nodded, ok dad.

You’re careful as you went up to the bow. You grabbed three rope hanks to lash the outer jib with, once you got her down. Now, with the three rope hanks clenched in your teeth, you crawled on the deck going from handhold to handhold until you reached the inner forestay. You grabbed the three rope hanks from your clenched teeth, gripped the inner forestay, and stood on deck. You glanced back at your little girl in the cockpit who holds the tiller and your heart went into your mouth because she was beautiful; she loved her dad, and showed not one spec of fear. Your eyes locked with hers for a second; then, you tended to the task at hand.

You released the outer jib halyard, clenched again the three rope hanks in your teeth, and dropped to your knees. You crawled to the edge of the deck at the bow. The bow sprit, a gorgeous piece of Douglas fir extended another 8 feet out over the open water, and at the end, on the outer forestay, the outer jib waited and snapped and cracked like a cannon. You straddled the bowsprit with your feet in the netting below, and slid your rear along  it until you reached the sail. You pulled down; she hesitated; the sea slapped you in the face and stung, but you relished it; you cursed; then, she began to slide down the forestay inch by slow inch.

For an eternal moment you thought about how alive you felt. You thought about life in the city where you could do three things: walk, eat, or shop. They didn’t know what they missed.

 You pulled and pulled; you were furious, and stuffed the sail into the netting; pulled a rope hank from your teeth and lashed the sail. You slid back some more, grabbed another rope hank that was clenched in your teeth, and lashed it again; you slid back some more and put the last lashing in place. She was tamed, and things got a bit quieter. You ease yourself backwards and slid back the way you came; you crawled back again to the base of the Douglas fir mast, and made fast the outer jib halyard that flailed in the wind to a belay pin. You come back and sat by your daughter; you sweated profusely.

“Well done.”

You began to ease her down; then, back up into the wind again as high as she would go, and still maintain good speed. The weather helm still required both hands on the tiller, but it was much easier now. You watched as the mainsheet wore into the mahogany coaming before it went through the block and tackle out to the boom because the lead was wrong. You thought that was a shame; a nice piece of Honduras mahogany being worn away as the main halyard chafed slowly deeper into the wood.

You adjusted the mainsheet to match your ever increased downwind angle to the wind. The wind was off her quarter now. You let her out bit by bit; you bore away bit by bit; then, you felt the wind ease, the motion ease, and the heat rise as we sailed faster than the wind surging and surfing among the white caps. 

The companionway hatch opened and Jordan popped out his head. He yelled with glee as the sun, surf and motion swept us down the length of the Island.

“Hold her there dad,” said Jordan.

                 She dipped and rose and flew downwind with a rhythm that eased our tensions. There was no weather helm, just the gentle push and pull of the tiller as she found her gentle way.

                You told the kids to grab a book and read, breath deep the fresh sea air because one day, they would look back and think: those were good times.

Frank Wayne