Dennis ghosting into the river.
It’s damp and quiet at the small private marina, the sun still low and weak. The other boats are rigged up and waiting, but with no wind no one is in a hurry. We mill around in sweatshirts with hands warming in pockets as the mist burns off. In a few minutes I’ve launched and we’re off.
Well, sort of. There is, as already mentioned, no wind. Harris and Kevin M. have motors. They crank up and sputter out to the river. Eddy and Dennis and I do not. I’m the last to leave (as always) and break out the oars, rowing easily out the narrow, rock-protected channel. Once past the trees the sail catches just enough breeze I can stow the sticks and ghost the rest of the way out.
The others are lolling sleepily in the river a short way off. The water is flat and glassy. There’s just enough movement in the air to make the boats glide atop rippling mirror reflections.
Eddie in his Sooty Tern
Harris and Barbara in their Caledonia Yawl
Kevin M. in his Marsh Cat
The tide is low and coming in, so we turn west to ride it from the James into the Chickahominy. There may be more wind by mid-afternoon, and hope to have some for the ride back out on the turn of the tide late in the day.
Within a few minutes I notice something odd: I’m catching up to the other boats. This never happens. Always everyone else sails off ahead, and it takes all my skills to keep them in sight. Maybe I just have a favorable eddy in the river?
Caesura is like a leaf blowing gently across the surface. I soon pass the other boats. Not going fast, by any means, but visibly faster. This is very odd. I do have the topsail up – it’s that kind of day – but that only adds about a dozen square feet of canvas. Not really significant, still only a fraction of what the others carry. And by far the smallest boat.
slack wind for the Topsail
Kevin M. stands up in his Marsh Cat and snaps a few photos as I pass (thanks Kevin). I tell him to be sure to hang onto those – might be the only time he ever sees me pass him – and return fire.
Me in the Melonseed Caesura,
in rare overtaking mode, afterburners on.
Photos by Kevin M.
Within a few more minutes I’m a hundred yards ahead. I look back and see the other four boats in a cluster, canted over at different angles, their sails slack. It’s so quiet, across even that distance I can hear Eddy grumbling to the others about me pulling away, thinking he needs a topsail, too. (He’s almost always waaaay out front in his Sooty Tern). It’s all both humorous and baffling. To everyone.
Before long the bridge is arching overhead. The tide is making about half a knot against the pylons, and Caesura is going perhaps a knot faster than that. Now the other boats are just dots I can barely see in the distance. I’m at least a mile ahead. This is most unusual.
A man is fishing on some docks. Two kayakers paddle along the shore beneath the bald cypress. Birds swirl in loose flocks over the brown marsh. It’s pretty nice. But a little lonely.
There’s a cottage on the shore tucked into the trees. In college I spent many evenings on the porch of that place with friends, drinking wine and reading poetry late into the night. It was a drawbridge then, a single span swing bridge with a light mounted at the center, and many of us recognized it as the same light Gatsby reached across the water for, when he longed for Daisy Buchanan.