‘OK, Irv, you’re right!’

Brownscow, the author’s Beneteau Evasion 32. Years ago, in New Brunswick, she found herself in a sticky situation. Photo courtesy Paul Brown

Guest Perspective: Paul Brown

Fundy Flotilla 2004, from Northeast Harbor to Grand Manan, and then on to Saint John and the St. John River. Brownscow, my Beneteau Evasion 32, had made it to Grand Manan, New Brunswick, and then had to leave the flotilla as my crew, Irv, had to get back to his day job. Our buddy boat, Avalon, was sailed by David and Sandy Paul.

The subject of this yarn is our mooring experience while still part of the flotilla at North Head Harbor. Bernie Wideman, Points East magazine co-founder and flotilla organizer, had told us that there would be moorings available, and there were – at least for most of the boats. Eventually we found a spot rafted up alongside a big powerboat with a towering fly-bridge, and Avalon tied up on the other side. The North Head breakwater, a shelter for local fishing boats, was not available to the flotilla.

The harbor at North Head is open to the east. We enjoyed the usual flotilla festivities during the day, and by early evening noticed that a breeze was beginning to build from that direction. We didn’t know enough about the harbor to grow overly concerned, but we were definitely aware of the situation. I suppose it was a little after midnight when the chop began to cause considerable rolling of the three rafted boats. Irv asked, politely, “Suppose we ought to move?”

“Where to?” I replied. “Leave the security of our raft and head out into the darkness to . . . where?”

Time wore on and the chop and the rolling increased. Looking out the hatch from my bed in the V-berth, I could see our neighbor’s fly-bridge directly overhead on its roll, which was counter to ours. “No, I’m not leaving the safety of the raft,” I thought. “Certainly, his fly-bridge won’t collide with my mast.” It was forward of the mast by a few feet.

I think it was the sound of the pans rattling loose from their places in a locker that finally brought me around.

“It’s about time,” a still-awake Irv replied drily.

I hurriedly pulled on some clothes and shoes, and stopped in the pilothouse to start the engine. When I stepped into the cockpit, the rain and the wind hit me forcefully. The crew on the powerboat was awake, and probably ready and relieved to release us. I was at the tiller and throttle in the cockpit, advising the other crew to release the stern line first and then the bow. As soon as the boats separated, I throttled up and away, turning in a counter-clockwise direction.

I had seen an empty mooring during daylight – closer to shore, perhaps 100 yards behind us – and informed Irv as to my intentions. I had a spotlight in my hand, illuminating the mooring, albeit shakily. “Go inside the breakwater,” he yelled.

“I’m going for that mooring,” I yelled back. The rain and the wind were making it difficult to hear, and I had only the slightest notion of the location of the breakwater. I did know where the mooring was, because I could see it. That was my goal and my safe haven.

I finished that counter-clockwise turn, and missed the mooring. Then, when about to make another circle, I looked toward the breakwater. There were bright lights clearly defining the opening on the left side. “I’m going to go for the breakwater,” I hollered in an intellectual 180.

For many pregnant seconds, there was no response from my crew, who finally replied in an odd tone, “Wonderful. Good decision.” I chalked that up to sarcasm.

I shortened the circle and headed for that patch of light: straight toward the blackness of the shore, sudden 90-degree turn to starboard, and then we were behind the shielding breakwater. The contrast between the frightening and near-deafening combination of wind, ocean and rain, and the tranquility behind the breakwater, was incredible and a great relief.

Such was life behind that breakwater: quiet, peaceful, safe. We pulled up to a barge, Irv stepped onto it, and our lines and fenders were deployed. As we secured the boat, the walkway along the top of the breakwater served as a partial roof over our heads. Irv hopped back aboard with a satisfied smile. Dripping wet, we shook hands and giggled as we considered the maelstrom we had just escaped.

It was impossible to get back to sleep. We tried, but, at around 3 a.m., the engine of the barge started. We called Avalon on the radio. Sandy and Dave were awake, apparently not rolling as dramatically as we had been, but sleepless nonetheless.

The two boats started back toward Maine in the first grayness of dawn. The next three days were spent poking around in the fog at Lakeman Harbor, at Roque Island, and around Jonesport.

I look back at that trip with nostalgia; it was my last year of sailing. I was 70 at the time, and beginning to wonder about my balance on deck. Sixteen years have passed since then. Today, mostly confined to writing about my sailing experiences, I sometimes wonder: Did I retire too soon?

The last Points East Fundy Flotilla was held in the summer of 2011. Raymond, N.H., resident Paul Brown describes himself as “a farm kid who never dreamed of being a yachtsman.”