Sheltering

buckman-160201For all the joys of coasting – driving along handsomely before a press of wind, pregnant arcs of sail against a flawless wash of sky, there’s a particular pleasure to the quiet side of cruising that takes as much finesse to meld into the optimal temper of things as it does to get a grip on the operational side of the equation.

Such were among my thoughts as we slowly worked our way to weather from Buckle Harbor, headed for Pickering Island, in the northern reaches of Maine’s Penobscot Bay. Close-hauled into feeble scurries of a westerly, and bucking a foul tide, various seamarks ridiculed our progress as we clawed along Eggemoggin Reach. We could have fired up the engine, but a lifetime of sailing has made a case for the fact that haste is often waste, and speed in sailing terms is practically irrelevant – except when it isn’t.

Sailing into Western Cove, the afternoon well along, we sniffed about the shallows, answering my obsession for the quietest of berths, and dropped the hook in line with a rocky swell on the east shore where we’d have eight feet at low water. Sails furled, and the boat cleared of various bits and bobs that accumulate on such days, we brought the cabin cushions into the cockpit to be refreshed by sun and breeze.

There’s a satisfaction to performing various mundane maintenance tasks when there’s no urgency to them. The anchor light had been a bit sketchy of late, and, taking the electrical connection apart, I found corrosion and put it right. Leigh removed canned goods from the compartment under her berth and gave it a cleaning, which imparted a wholesomeness to our quarters. No small part of sail craft is about how things feel.

At length a bottle of wine was opened, toasts made, and conversation flowed. We discussed our itinerary for the next week, taking care not to burden it with too much detail, for days without design are among the more pleasing of options. There were silences too, when the drama of our circumstance weighed upon us, and we were possessed of a certain heedfulness.

The island seemed small against the vault of sky, and our eyes were drawn to the sight of a lone bird, gliding on high with only occasional strokes of its scimitar wings. The mate swept the firmament with binoculars and identified it as an immature eagle, which took up residence on a king spruce and kept watch over all and sundry – including us. Without being aware of it, we came to something of the texture of the place, our presence small against the hush, which is not to say, quiet, for a murder of crows bickered away as they do.

Taking to the dinghy, a dozen pulls on the oars brought us to a shingle beach. Wandering along shore, the sweet smell of evening on air, the mussel pickings were slim, but we managed a few to go with dinner, there being an agreeableness to wild victuals gathered by our own hands.

Ah, how deep the velvet night, space and planets as inexplicable as ever. Held in the bosom of tranquility, the sloop rustled about quietly. Waking at 0-dark-thirty, I peered out the port and found the little eel rut perfectly still, a crescent of ivory moon scattering diamonds across the restless waters to the west.

Within, the peace was of unfathomable sweetness. As it turned out, we stayed the next day and night, never leaving the boat, perfectly content to do little more than float like a leaf on the sea of life and savor the quiet side of coasting.

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