Our boat went in the water last weekend. The season has begun. Sailing has become a new way for us to mark the passage of time, to note the swings and cycles of nature, and our relation to it. In early October, the boats come out of water and onto the hard. The sails are packed away, masts come down, and these so graceful vessels become as clunky in their earth-boundness as seagulls on foot.
But the reverse transformation is now taking place. From a tamed beast imprisoned in its cradle, like Brother Rabbit stuck in tar, our sailboat has reoriented itself, back in its element, Brother Rabbit back in the briar patch, the seagull on the wing. Well...almost. She’s only back in the water, so far. No mast yet, and no sails. She cannot yet fly, but she can swim, and flight will come, soon enough. Maybe the mast will go up today.
We slept aboard last night, and before that, shared the evening with good friends, between their boat and ours, here in our small marina. We brought food from home, barbecued ribs on the grill, shared homemade wine and store bought rum, remembering past journeys and storms endured, and looking ahead to voyages only imagined. So pleasant, bobbing on the waters of the bay, the night pressing down, the city close yet far, within sight and earshot of the Lakeshore’s traffic, but our tranquility untouched, undisturbed by it.
We have community here. Our disparate members, reassemble every May, launching our couple of dozen boats. We are both stink-potters (with motors) and rag-baggers (with sails). But there’s no real divide. We’re here from different places but for much the same reasons: serenity, the lure of the water, and the possibility of flight, which has less to do with going to any particular somewhere, as it has with movement and freedom and imagination.
There are 3 boat clubs here in Ashbridge’s Bay. The yacht club is huge, over 150 boats, a very impressive and proper club house with full restaurant and bar, and with a full schedule of social events throughout the season. Then there’s the Hydro-plane and Sailing club, with close to a hundred boats, and a more modest club house. We joke about our even more humble outfit as the ghetto club. We have an unadorned but functional building that serves as workshop, washroom, kitchen and meeting room. We have a couple of barbecues out front, a small yard and two docks. Technically, this is the facility of the Vanguard Navy League, and there are weekly training sessions for kids who go out in small dinghies, learning the art of sailing. The fees we boaters pay go to support these programs and to maintain the facility.
When Ponczka and I first got our 20 foot Halman, going sailing was the beginning and end of it. But over time, as friendships develope, the socializing becomes a larger part of the experience. We once wondered at the boaters who rarely or never do any actual boating. But simply being here, hanging out, having dinners and parties, making music together – it’s all become a larger part of the experience of being a boater. These days, as launch approaches, re-connecting with others we’ve not seen since the Fall is as much of a draw as the water itself.
Last year, we succumbed to “foot-itis” – the dreaded affliction of boaters, always wanting that larger boat. We graduated to a 27’ Catalina. And what a difference. The boat is faster and more responsive than Bubbles, our unsinkable but plodding first boat. But more than that, the new boat is so much roomier. It’s big enough below for us to stand upright, to cook, to sleep comfortably and together. So now, even more than before, we understand the non-sailing appeal of the sailing life. Our new boat – 1978 new – is like our cottage in the city. It’s such a wonderful privilege and pleasure to enjoy. And we love sharing it with friends. So come join us if you can. Especially you, Eleanor! You’re way over due. There’s lots of summer to come, but it passes quickly. Before you know it, we’ll be coming round to Haul Out, and this wonderful community will dissolve again for a season.