First sail, 2021 | Block Island Times


In early May, I sailed for the first time to Potter Cove on Prudence Island, which for the past fifteen years has been an excellent boating destination and hiding place; it is a nice contrast with the port of Galileo where I live and work. Most importantly, it’s a great place for peace and quiet before the summer season begins to wear full-fledged coastal clothing, and our neighborhood becomes a destination and embarkation point for people traveling to South. I still look forward to this sailing exercise in early spring as I know the cove will be empty. On May 12th, I left Newport in 15 to 18 knots SW pushing Reverie with a nice tide. After I left Newport harbor I spurred her on and she was flying. Also, it was unusually hot while I steered my boat with my foot and listened to MVY Radio; which is a great vineyard based radio station. There was some tanker traffic that day, but I didn’t see any other sailboats in the bay. I was having fun and not doing heavy lifting as Reverie crossed acres of empty water and headed north at 6.5 knots. These days my idea of ​​a good sail is to fly downwind and just manage the mass and physics of my sailboat with my foot on the wheel. I don’t want to feel downcast after enjoying my free time from the ferry docks, so keeping the boat balanced in all gait means less strain on my seventy-one-year-old body. I know, I am brilliant.
On that first sail, I did the usual exercise and grabbed a mooring in the creek, and immediately checked out a huge west-facing osprey nest that seemed to defy the elements. I could go into this nest. On this first sail, I noticed something else that I had never seen at the beginning of May. Right next to my stern, about thirty meters away, was an anchorage on which an osprey was building a nest. While eating the larva that my wife had packed for me, I watched the industrious fish hawk fly close to me with twigs and place them on the mooring wisely. The nest was taking shape and I thought it had just started to be built in the last couple of days. Unfortunately, this nest would be dismantled when the owner of the anchorage showed up to moor his boat. Although thwarted by this human incursion, the osprey would directly and instinctively find another suitable nesting site for its companion and its young; it is simply integrated into the animal’s DNA to perform this simple breeding exercise.
After eating my supper and doing a few boating chores, I read for an hour, then made a plan and started writing a column about my wild winter in Daytona Beach. I put a thousand words on the page, then brushed my teeth and collapsed on my bunk. The cove was still; the island had only the ambient noise of insects and the roar of a cow. Peace. I fell asleep soundly; however, at 1:00 am, something hit the mast of my sailboat and the impact almost knocked me off my bunk.
The torque and the twang of the forestay, shrouds and backstay were so strong that I initially thought the mast was falling, which made no logical sense as the chain plates are bulletproof on my boat. Reverie is a sturdy old boat. I grabbed a flashlight and climbed the descent ladder and into the cockpit.
I pointed my flashlight up the mast to see what rocked my boat so violently it woke a sailboat from a deep sleep. Forty feet tall, there was a male osprey perched on top of my mast and keeping an eye on its nest that floated above my stern. Male ospreys will build a nest for their mates, then do the courtship dance. Unfortunately, I saw the futility of all these efforts as the nest would eventually be destroyed. This osprey came in for a hot landing on the mast of my boat probably because it was pitch black in the creek. Although this was a futile effort, the bird did its due diligence to keep its nest going and came down at dawn to continue building its nest. When I woke up at 6:00 am I noticed the southwest wind picking up and decided to leave the creek and head home to Newport. I made coffee and left my mooring.
As I made my first tack towards the Mount Hope Bridge, the wind and the tide were against me. In addition, I was whipped by twenty-five knots of wind at 07:00. It would have been a long day of sailing south to Newport if I hadn’t turned around at Reverie and returned to the creek to hang out and read and write for another day. It was a sweet affair of fate to have more free time. As I watched the osprey make its nest, I scribbled the outline of another column and the wind continued to howl and blow from the southwest. Late in the afternoon, while doing noodles on Facebook, a friend posted about writer Tom McGuane having
a Zoom chat that evening on a platform called “Seattle City Hall”. I clicked on the Zoom chat and watched McGuane and Eric M. Johnson discuss fly fishing, literature, and writing. It was good to hear a few guys give their thoughts on the writing job. McGuane is one of my heroes. This guy is a master whom I read very closely and take in everything I can from him. What I take away from the discussion is the capacity of short fiction, i.e. the short story, and most importantly, is when McGuane said, for him, that a writer should read lots of good writers and the writing should be “nice”. Interestingly, while Tom McGuane was talking about his job, the stern of my sailboat was aimed directly at his childhood grounds in Fall River, Massachusetts. McGuane has a great story. (Google him.)
Finally, my first ride was fun, the food my wife made for me was delicious, I wrote two enjoyable articles, read a good book, and sailed easily to Newport with only twenty knots of southerly wind. Where is. Win, win, win. The season has begun !


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