Oh! The rhythms of the sea

Midwinter 2006

By Dodge Morgan

Of all life’s joys, sailing is a strong No. 2 after sex. This truism becomes emblazoned with clarity during a midwinter in Maine, because sailor’s minds are diverted to memories of occasions when the lead pair of human joy – those two “S” words – became warped into the same time frame. What else is there to think about?

I realize that the Points East editor will bear uproar from the vanguard of political correctness – prudes might be the more accurate description – among readers, if, in fact, this column actually makes print. It could well cost me my job here. What the hell! I’ll miss the astounding notoriety this magazine gives me, but my estate and retirement planning won’t be hard hit.

Back to sex and sailing. I will deal with the subject on a strict intellectual plane, so don’t expect any explicit, XXX-rated examples from me here. Small boats are cumbersome sex platforms, definitely favoring the suppleness and flexibility and persistence of youth. An 18-inch-wide bunk flanked with bulkheads on three sides is barely one step up from the hammock of our tall-ship past. At one point in a life, the decision to totally replace active onboard physical comingling with slyly applied, earthy, verbal foreplay becomes a natural evolution. This point comes at differing ages, with the dumbest being the oldest. Verbal sex is really not that great and can be downright tiring, a bit like trying to define the tallest midget.

There is a mechanical advantage in being in a wave-active anchorage. The externally projected motion and rhythm lowers the exertion requirement during the physical act itself, yet can be added to whimsically by either partner. If played well, one can achieve highly satisfactory results with little labor over a prolonged period of time.

Cockpit intercourse while under way is not highly recommended unless there’s self-steering gear and much sea room. Given those advantages present, however, the act is edged with a pervasive sense of inscrutable curiosity about what could happen next.

When there appears nothing else to do, I have the idle habit of retelling myself past sexual onboard experiences and find I can add more specifics with each telling. I believe this is a natural human trait, at least for male animals. I will now give you a recent example. The fact that I was alone adds intrigue and reduces salaciousness.

For a dramatic change in my sailing style, I was actually prepared well for the 30-mile voyage of my little, 79-year-old schooner Eagle to her winter home last October. The day was bright, the wind quite strong out of the Northwest. I left with a double-reefed main, a working jib and a furled fore. And I personally engulfed myself in a Mustang survival suit before dropping the mooring pennant. Finally, signs of aging wisdom?

The seas had the brisk chop of a lee. The old gal balanced well and stood up. Current flowing out of the Kennebec was wilder than ever I have seen, forcing me to head 35 degrees off to hold a course. Just north of the Sisters, I heard a rumbling noise and turned to see a Coast Guard Cutter hanging just off my stern, the crew lined up watching my old-fashioned gal boiling up a lively wake.

A big kid yelled to me, “See any other boat?” “How many on board?” “Where departed?” “Where headed?” “Do you realize small-craft warning, blowing 45 over you?” Any answer from me would either be obvious or unnecessary. I later realized she was looking for a missing 40-footer, later found well offshore foundering with a young fellow on board who’d had the terrifying experience of seeing his dad lost overboard. While making up on anchor, I watched a spectacular sunset and then sat in witness of a glorious full moonrise.

What has this to do with sex, you ask? All I know is that the sail and heavenly display afterward had me in a state of solid arousal.

In 1985-86, Dodge Morgan, sailing his American Promise, was the first American to sail solo, nonstop around the world, and the 150 days he took to circumnavigate set a new record.