Northeast wind, Seal Trap, acute awareness

Cruise of the Leight, Part Four: I was imagining my summer of cruising as a “sailabout” of sorts, sharing qualities of the aboriginal Australians’ walkabouts. I was seeking the peace of wild places, mysteries of nature, depths of solitude, and the incomprehensible energy of the sea. I wanted to lie in the sun, drink wine, read, write, muse on things – and do nothing at all.

Other than a flight of gulls tracing sweeping gestures against the leaden sky, Perry Creek was quiet when I took measure of the day. My bachelor’s breakfast included an industrial-strength donut of the sort that lasts for weeks and gives new meaning to the word “bland.” Munching and musing over a forecast calling for northeasterly weather, it was predicted to blow 20 knots and gusting by afternoon. Suddenly the pressure to head out was upon me.

Anchorages protected from winds of this quarter were few along my trajectory, but poring over the chart I elected to make for Seal Trap on Isle au Haut, 14 miles east. Decidedly more affected by weather when singlehanding, there was a sober cast to my mood as the Leight’s sails were raised to a soldiering breeze. Soon afterward, islands faded away, clouds scudded low, and the empty reaches of East Penobscot Bay seemed wholly removed from the world.

Three hours along, the surf slashed and granite girded shore of my destination emerged through the mists. It takes half-tide or better to thread the needle into the rarely visited eel rut at Seal Trap. Sails struck, tide ebbing, and engine thrumming, we slipped close aboard the sheer cliffs of Moores Head, dodged swells of menacing ledges, and carried seven feet into the slender inner sanctum. Anchoring where we’d have nine feet at low, the solitude was profound, and I was still missing my wife Leigh.

Retreating to the cabin and heating up a bowl of chicken soup warmed the sloop’s snug quarters. The freshening wind made little impression on the broom closet of an anchorage, however, and, after the luxury of a nap, I spent an hour fitting a piece of rubber gasket material under the leaking engine water pump. Its purpose was to divert dripping seawater away from the oil line beneath it, the previous line having rusted out. A jury rig to be sure, but I was pleased, because my mechanical skills are marginal, and a few such repairs have not improved matters.

Darkness fell early as it does on days like this, wind cried in the rigging, and rain drummed down. Mozart’s heroic Requiem in G, and a glass or five of petite syrah proved good company. Peering out of the port, there was nothing to be seen. It felt as though I were floating in space.

The following morning offered more of the same, and I settled in for another day of it, which seemed no small indulgence. Scrambled eggs and bacon proved a suitably epic breakfast. Afterward, I read Erskine Childers’ “The Riddle Of The Sands,” while scarves of white satin crowded the sloop. It was easy to imagine I was in the Frisian Islands aboard Dulcibella, on the trail of the villainous Herr Dollmann and his fetching daughter, Clara.

As much as I enjoy being a slacker, the rain having ceased its pattering on the cabin top, I rowed the dinghy to the east shore. Showers sprinkled down as I brushed overhanging branches aside, my solitude in this wild place weighed upon me, and a certain animal awareness inhabited my thoughts.
The silence and solitude was pregnant. The subtlety of it ran deep, but of course it wasn’t quiet at all. The muffled report of surf breaking on a weather shore, the bickering of crows, the sighing wind, and the birdsong all blended seamlessly, when I took notice of them.

A flight of terns wheeled and dived without the slightest doubt of their mission in this world. I wondered what it meant. After all these years, I still know pitifully little of life in the wild but to be quiet and lean into the light.

David Buckman’s book, “Bucking The Tide,” is about discovering the New England and Fundy coast in a wreck of a $400 sloop. It’s $19, including shipping. To order one, send your mailing address to buckingthetide@gmail.com.

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