Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Memory Drive

While planning for this June's sailing trip, I re-read the story I had in Chesapeake Bay Magazine last summer and got all excited. There are things worth living for after all.

This was the un-edited version:

In August, two old friends and I took a four-day sailing trip on the Chesapeake Bay in my sloop, the Lonnie Bruner. I’d assembled the hardiest crew I could hope for. Colin claims to have slept hanging from the side of a mountain. Jason has a natural knack for predicting the weather. And they’d been around boats as kids. Jason’s boating knowledge was honed on his father’s top-heavy Bayliner. He’d cut his teeth under the command of his dad who shouted at him for breaking insignificant boat accessories or ordered him to scrub the head. Colin had earned his maritime wings by capsizing a catamaran, and had been resourceful enough get the sail vertical again. These were the types of mates I needed to fight the filth and the fury of the Chesapeake.

As we left the marina in Rhode River, our routines began. Colin was at the helm, teak in hand, staring at the GPS and commanding the rest of us to trim the sails. Jason was keeping himself busy making weather predictions, eyeing the chart book and musing at the seamanship it took to get a sailboat to move. And I was doing nothing. I’m the captain after all. My hard work is usually done when I take my sunbathing friends out. Since my crew was willing and able to do the work of the boat, I spent my time fretting about the weather, slicing pepperoni for my crew, and sipping the occasional beer.

Our first destination was a secluded cove on the eastern side of the bay at Tilghman Creek. It’s the cove at the point north of St. Michael’s. On the way we sailed past Bloody Point Lighthouse. This rust bucket tower has been leaning sideways since the late nineteenth century. Sailing past was eerie. It was the same feeling you get when driving past neglected, boarded up houses in some forgotten neighborhood. It’s amazing to think that such a thing was once manned twenty-four hours a day. We hit eighteen knots of wind for four hours. It was the kind of wind that heeled the boat up and made us put on our lifejackets. Coming toward the cove we were ready for light winds.

When we anchored in the cove it was dark. We decided to cook dinner on the adjacent beach since there were no people or houses around and we weren’t worried about anyone hassling us. We slogged through the water seventy yards to the beach carrying a grill, charcoal, lighter fluid, and four ribeyes in plastic bags. We ate a sandy feast of medium rare steak and half cold beer on our private beach. We felt so privileged.

Our next day’s destination was Harrison’s Sportfishing Center in Tilghman Island. Getting there was one of the most harrowing parts of the journey. At the end of the day we were sailing in pitch-black darkness and had to spot a series of bouys around the tip of the island. There were three bouys we needed to round in order to avoid hitting the shoal and running aground. At night, and under strong winds this tested our skills. We couldn’t see one of the three bouys because there were no lights on it and we were running the risk of slamming right into it. The solution was for Jason to grab the spotlight and climb out to the bow which was slicing into the waves and putting up a drenching sea spray. With me perched on the windward gunwale, Colin at the helm shouting to Jason on the bow, and Jason trying to hold the spotlight steady, we spotted the hidden bouy and barely avoided hitting it dead on. As we rounded the tip of Tilghman, Jason joined me at the windward gunwale. Soaked in sea spray, we headed for Harrison’s.

As we eyed the lights of the Fishing Center in the distance, the wind was behind us and there was little work for the final stretch. Within minutes we were in a rollicking karaoke bar. Before I knew it I was on stage belting out country music into the karaoke microphone. It was a nice way to end our long day on the water.

Saturday was a cloudy sail and we headed for Herring Bay to do some bottom fishing. At the mouth of the bay we anchored amongst twenty other bottom fishermen. We caught about twenty perch, hauling them in, shrieking at the top of our lungs to the amusement of the more seasoned fishermen around us.

That night’s dinner was a feast. We opened a bottle of champagne, fired up the fish and steaks on the grill, and gorged ourselves. As we finished our dinner it was getting dark so we decided to go exploring on land. Walking down the beach, we stumbled on a rusty rowboat submerged in rocky sand. Not having a dinghy, we dug it out with our bare hands until we managed to lift it. We found some wooden planks in the woods and so began our two hundred yard paddle back to the Lonnie Bruner. Feeling like Tom Sawyers, with bay water streaming like a fountain though a hole in the bottom, we used our makeshift paddles to get back. Jason rocked the boat until it capsized and down it went. We had to swim the rest of the way back.

On Sunday we made our way home. As we motored, thoughts of the coming fall and winter came to mind. Even though I felt exhausted from the trip, and didn’t feel like being cramped on a boat anymore, I knew memories of this trip would be a comfort in the coming months. The thoughts of this trip will get me through this winter and should make the leafless trees and cold, city wind somewhat bearable as we head into 2004, and will prevent me from wishing I was living someplace else.

We goin' fishin'!
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