Organic cruising. Time. Spectacle. Solitude

Cruise of the Leight, Part seven: Cruise of the Leight, Part 6: I had imagined 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.

Making the most of a cruise is a challenge for a singlehander of my low order. Playing the weather – current and future – my mood, tides, currents and especially time, is critical, for coasting is more art than sport and enhanced by an organic approach.

Sole occupant of the Mud Hole, sail covers on, there was a pregnant hush to the scene, but for foggy dew drops plashing on the cabin-top. I wished Leigh was along, but she had an actual job, and couldn’t take the summer off and go muddling along the coast like a latter-day Thoreau.

It takes a while to meld into a proper coasting mode, and design days with confidence. Phone off, radio silenced and GPS screen dark, the stillness seemed to have a certain depth to it. The usual clutter of thoughts rattling about my mind came to focus on the cry of the Mistake Island foghorn a few miles to the east. Its wavering plea seemed the essence of loneliness, like a child crying in the dark. Approaching this hard-bitten coast in a dungeon of fog still seems a chancy business, even with a GPS, and the comfort of the little eel rut was precious.

Rowing the dinghy ashore, and taking to the Mud Hole Trail, I found it shimmering with millions of liquid garden globes cast about the canopy of spruce and hemlock like Christmas lights. The footing on the sodden path was eerily quiet. I felt like a stealthy interloper until a red squirrel scolded me annoyingly when I stopped to adjust my backpack. I spoke soothingly, but it wanted me gone, though I told him that we human beans weren’t an altogether bad lot.

The granite swells along the east shore of Great Wass Island made for easy walking as it described colossal arcs, and melted into shingle beaches and bilious brine pools of the sort in which life may have arose. Gatherings of wild iris spread their orchid-like blossoms, and tiny blue harebells nestled in cracks in the rocks.

There was a certain ancientness to the scene that made me feel a long way from home. I photographed a few dandelion-like flowers I didn’t know the proper name of, which spoke to my pitiful knowledge of such things. Stopping to scan a wash of smooth beach stones, I added a rose-tinted, comma-shaped jewel to my pocket, and skipped a flat rock “sevensie” across smooth water.

Coming upon a bold, ice-cream scoop of a headland, I clambered up to a grassy throne where I had lunch and held court, the curve of horizon and vault of sky impossibly beyond comprehension. Gulls glided by at eye level, their sinuous wings undulating gently as they arced through the air with extraordinary grace, nattering among themselves like disgruntled radio talk-show callers. Terns on scimitar wings, were the F-16s of sky and sea, cutting impossible curves, hovering nervously, and diving to feed. Seals were curious, but kept their distance, and I wondered what drove the ants that crossed nearby rocks so purposefully.

There was a particular awareness to my mood. Time was not pressing. I talked to eagles, sketched rather badly, but it was art of a crude sort. I lazed about, saw a cloud that looked like a horse, and took a nap, which was interrupted by a many-legged insect traversing my nose. I grew into the quiet, and felt less an outsider. How could time be better spent than that?

Back aboard, I took a nap, hoping another cruiser would sail in. I had a taste for society. But the tide fell, and the door was shut. Plans and ambitions are good things, but so is letting time describe its own course. There’s more to coasting than sailing.

David Buckman’s book, “Bucking the Tide,” is about muddling along the New England and Maritime coast in an actual wreck of a $400 sloop. It’s $19, including shipping. Send your mailing address to