Sunday drive, color of money, Perry Creek

Cruise of the Leight, Part 3: I was imagining 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 and muse .

When I was but an annoying lad, between sailing and ski seasons my parental units would take my siblings and me on leisurely Sunday drives, which were less about a destination than discovery. Coasting under sail seems enhanced by a similar approach, for it’s two or three times slower than an old man on a bicycle – and that’s no small part of its charm.

Morning broke sullen and southerly in the tide pool under Andrews Island, just off the Muscle Ridge Channel, and there was no hurrying the numerous small tasks to prepare the sloop for 35 miles of slogging dead to weather and tide. My goal was the quiet waters of Perry Creek, and there was a certain edginess in the air, because it would be a busy cup of tea for a solo sailor of my hoary order.

To make singlehanding more civil, I left the genoa home for a blade of a jib, which sheets inboard, points higher, and is decidedly handier. Raising sail to a frisking breeze, the sloop was immediately rail down, and I lost count of the spray-lashed tacks it took to claw clear of the five miles to Fishermen Island Passage.

Buoys galore, ledges plentiful, and the tide sapping her strength, it was a dance of sorts. Putting the helm over, and letting the jib fly at first flutter, I sheeted sail home in a heartbeat before it blossomed purposefully on the next slant.
For a long time, Vinalhaven Island seemed to come no closer, and I concentrated on picking my way through the tide-taxed waves. It was slow going making the Fox Island Thorofare, and I was reminded of climbing a mountain, for the dogged work it took to gain ground.

Tack, tack, tack, her shoulder to the grindstone, sardines and crackers proved a messy lunch. Gaining Browns Head Lighthouse, its foghorn moaning and breeze freshening, she leaned into it, spray rattling against the dodger. Easing the main and tightening the outhaul reduced the sail’s draft, and she was more wholesome for it. Working past the huddle of grand cottages on Fish Head, I noticed many of them were gray and Dartmouth green – the color of money.

Afternoon was getting on and the rail was awash, and by the time the village of North Haven showed through the lee rigging, yachts were abundant, and clouds were scudding low. Elbowing through the crowd, it was a relief to make Perry Creek at last. Letting the main go to slow her down, it took a few madly slatting minutes to dash on deck, strike the jib and rudely contain it.

The Folkboat is an exceedingly supple sloop, and hardening sail again she gathered way, the trembling tiller testifying to primal power in my hand. Laboring into the spruce-hemmed heart of the creek, she forged past the schooner Appledore with a certain stealth.

There’s a sureness to the Swedish-built sloop, she never feels flat-footed or hesitant to answer the helm, generous ballast carrying her through flat spots in the wind, and not missing stays once in 32 years of cruising. Closing on the wind shadow close ashore, I eased the main, for she doesn’t like being reined in tightly in light air. Locating “our” mooring, and paying off on a reach, about three boat lengths shy of the buoy I brought the sloop sharply into the wind and eased the main. Slowed to a crawl, I hastened forward and made fast, the world suddenly strikingly quiet but for the lazy chuff of the restless main.

There had been a particular pleasure to getting about organically, as much work, drama and subtlety as there was to it. The day had been possessed of an intensity, physicality and stirring dimension, which is the optimal circumstance to address such things. It had taken seven hours to make 17 miles of straight-line distance – but it was time exceedingly well spent.

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

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