Saturday, September 29, 2012

nobody's fool

anyone who has known my husband for more than 20 minutes long knows he is no fan of travel. I say that with a caveat: it's the to and fro and not the destination that often finds us ready to change our plans and head to the nearest divorce court home.  if we are driving, whether it's to church or to the peach state, he drums the steering wheel, tries to pass on the two lanes just where i know he shouldn't, fumes at drivers around him though the only person who'll hear him is me. flying can be worse, what with automated check-ins and tarmac delays, tiny aisles and arguing toddlers punching our seats from behind. (there, now, honey, don't blame me for the fact that you forgot your iPad!)

i'm thinking if only we could sail to where we're going, a thousand arguments over the past 32 years might never have happened.

sail. that's what i said. if we could close the back door and head to the dock, step on board and sail ...  away. 

well, that would be my husband's solution. i'd be busy searching google for the nearest five star hotel with a boat landing, spa and freshly-pressed sheets to break up the trip.

the skipper, as we call him, got his first boat some 15 years ago, and now we (he) mans boat #6. this last one we (i) named Fortune's Fool, because the skipper certainly has spent more than one fortune on his beauties boats and their many accoutrements. (i have used this information when i want to buy myself high-priced boots or cameras — i don't have a sailboat, i whine, and not once has he ever said go get one.) and no, i didn't really mean anything by choosing a name connecting my husband's prized possession to the world's most famous star-crossed lovers. really.

when i married him just 11 days shy of 31 years ago, the only boat this skipper had ever been on was my father's Boston Whaler, and in my memory only once... (my daddy loved that boat, and when he sold it, my mother threatened to lie down in the driveway to keep the buyer from pulling it away. so when the skipper said he wanted to buy that first day sailer, i knew what i was up against.)

i should have planned our wedding date better. he has spent at least one of our wedding anniversaries at the annapolis boat show, though i'm not complaining. really.

well, sort of. i thought that first boat would be the end of it, that he'd get the water out of his bones and take up golf. he sold that boat, buying a new one (slightly soaked) before the old one had even left the yard. and he kept on selling and buying until he had to hire a crane operator to put the last boat in the water. whether it was the skipper's naivete or the boats' fault, i was never sure. he kept saying he was buying bigger and better boats for me.

this, from a man who grew up landlocked. he didn't particularly like the beach, though he has come to understand my need to talk to the ocean from time to time. yet he drives an hour one way down country roads to get to his beauty, and only always when i am along rarely does he try to pass the slow poke. he is that happy to be going.

i don't go sailing often enough for him. he brings his little cooler into the kitchen on a saturday morning and i count how many hours i can nap chapters i can read in the hours he'll be gone.

i like sailing. once we are on the water and i have a cool beverage and friends to laugh with and cute cocktail napkins with sailboats on them to serve with my provisions ... i really do. it's the prep and the hauling to and fro and the sweating in the cabin on a very hot summer day that just spoils my outfit, face and hair. it feels like camping to me, which leads me to camp, the memory of which still haunts me, so more often than not, i've stayed at home.

but two weeks ago, i woke on a saturday to a stiff breeze and 60 degrees and it was just too pretty to nap read. 

'i'm not going to take you if it takes two hours to provision!' the captain barked. 

was stopping for a sub sandwich to put in an itty-bitty cooler too much trouble?


apparently not. i even took my new sailboat camera, hoping to take some pictures for myself him to show his sailing buddies. and as we sailed in the crisp wind, the skipper started telling me about the new mistresses boats he had his eye on. seaworthy. as in the atlantic.

oh dear.

the skipper has a big birthday coming up in just over 40 days. when i asked him what he wanted to do, i knew it would involve sailing. so we packed up our grips and headed to the airport (it was too early for anybody to be on the road, though as usual he couldn't get his card to work in the automatic check-in) so he didn't really grumble about it too much.

skipper jr was in tow, and the three of us met up with the pea and her prince not without major angst from the skipper trying to find the rental car place and a parking place along a crowded street on the aft deck of a restaurant in Portland, Maine, where all you could see anywhere was two- and three-masted schooners, sailing, sailing. we could feel the tension lifting just a bit.

we'd made a reservation to sail on a three-masted schooner in boothbay harbor, maine, at 5 o'clock — an hour from our current port o' call — and we were late. we zoomed ahead of the kids, the skipper weaving in and out of traffic again, me wishing i'd brought a life vest in the car to keep my delicate skin from bruising as we cruised.soften the impact of the to and fro.

i texted the pea: where are you? knowing the skipper would be crushed if we missed the sail because of their dawdling. 'we are going as quick as we can' she wrote back, and though she didn't say 'dad needs to chill' i know she was thinking it.

we reached the boat with 10 minutes to spare. the kids and i sat, me promising our few days in maine would bring us a new man, now that he was on the water. i'd seen it happen just last year.  i sensed they didn't believe me.

then we set sail (with a captain and first mate), and as the boat yawned, the skipper smiled. he talked. he chatted it up with the captain. he leaned on the rails. he laughed more than a few times, put his arm around me even, watching the water, the sails stretch, giving way to his love of this thing that only he can really understand.

the kids were amazed, that the secret to calming their father's stormy demeanor was as simple as water, canvas, wood and wind.

on our second day, we climbed aboard another boat, this one motor-powered, and headed into the vast atlantic toward a tiny island off the maine coast. the skipper stood on the bow in his yellow slicker, watching the swells and looking for all the world like a lobsterman scouting out his traps. and he was smiling, once again.

later and back on land, the skipper eyed a burgee flying with the colors of our seaside respite. that would look nice aboard the Fortune's Fool he said more than once.

taking the hint thinking ahead for once about his Christmas list, skipper jr inquired at the front desk as to where he could acquire said flag for his dad, but there was none to be had. a day later, i asked the same thing, and of course so had the skipper. i found myself wondering how we might have one made as a surprise.

it was spitting rain at checkout, winds skating over the bay at close to 20 knots. time to go home. but as the skipper headed into the the cottage for one last walk-through, i saw him toting the burgee. the innkeepers had somehow found an extra, so they handed it off for the promise of a good review on travelocity.

our week was, to use a boating term, quite yar — as katharine hepburn said in the philadelphia story. (My, she was yar...easy to handle, quick to the helm, fast, right. Everything a boat should be, until she develops dry rot. ) and so was the skipper.

if you don't count the money we spent or squeaky floors of our cabin, or the fact that in the wee hours of our last morning, someone quite large and ungainly in the adjoining cabin took a tub bath, and we heard every slap squeak against the fiberglass tub wall. and the groan when they tried to stand up.

it's a rainy day, but guess where the skipper is? off to pat the fortune's fool, to mend her lines and set the halyard flying. 

i'm hoping for a few more days of yar before the dry rot begins. and i'm searching my new iPhone maps to see if there indeed might be a way to sail wherever we are headed next.


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