Pieces of a puzzle. The Mud Hole. Silence

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.

It’s 50 miles from Burnt Coat Harbor to the Mud Hole, and no clever timing would spare me the burden of a foul tide. The hour was early, dew sparkled on deck, and not a breath of wind was stirring when the Leight took leave of Swans Island. Powering through a mere gut of a back channel, and heading Downeast on glossy seas, the weight of a long day loomed.

Skirting Lunts Harbor on Long Island an hour along, the crews of two moored cruising boats were on deck, preparing to head out. There was a stirring quality to putting to sea for a singlehander of my chary order, the possibilities like pieces of a puzzle from a box without an illustration on the cover.

Even with three hours of flood under us, the flow was more northward toward Frenchman Bay, than easterly, and it seemed a tedious business making the Duck islands. Cruise time takes adapting to, and on outside passages, I often pay little attention to distance readings on the GPS, because sailing is a slow business, and too much awareness of time and space is distracting.

In the pink seashell light of a fledgling day, scurries of wind stirred far seaward, but made no advances inshore. The engine sang its song, “Sin now and repent at your leisure.” I set the autopilot, cleaned the cabin floor, and read. Schoodic Island, the gateway to a heightened order of drama, loomed off to the shining east, but an hour along it hardly seemed closer.

I had the shining sea to myself. Eventually bringing the bell off Schoodic abeam, I tried, without luck, to sight the spire of Petit Manan Lighthouse, nine miles up the shore. Messengers of a southwesterly teased and evaporated three times before holding steadily enough to raise sail and quiet the engine. Making a civil four knots of it, I was tempted to motorsail, but held on, willing to pay the price of thoroughly agreeable peace.

Then the ebb turned and wrote its script in a forceful hand, sharp-sided waves tossing as the frisking breeze showed some authority. Sails winged out, an arabesque of trailing eddies spooled astern, and the power of the wind still seemed a mystery. Petit Manan Light took its sweet time showing through the lee rigging, roaring seas smashing to destruction on its foaming battlements, and puffins arcing low in a blur of wing beats.

Evening wasn’t far off, and the seas were in their usual unruly state off Mistake Island. Turning into the Mud Hole Channel, wind abeam, the sloop made six lively knots through the ledge-girded sluice. There was a certain chaos to a few moments of it, a door in the cabin springing open and spewing its contents far and wide, just as I had 497 other things to do: start the engine, strike sail, bundle them rudely, haul the dinghy close, dodge lobster buoys, thread my way between ledges, drop anchor in the entrance to the Mud Hole, and await the tides admission to its inner sanctum.

The quiet of the spruce-crowned eel rut was calming. Relocating to the head of navigation later, an eagle floated overhead and solitude slowed time. Sitting in the cockpit, wine at hand, it occurred to me that one of the best things about singlehanded cruising was being absolute lord and master of a small universe, and I declared a holiday on the morrow.

I would rise late, laze about, read, write, nibble, walk ashore, shower, air the cushions, drink wine, live organically and compact the garbage – we coasters taking garbage minimization seriously. Time is the most valuable of assets, and the quiet takes full measure of it.

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

Comments are closed.