Warmed by Island dreams

Warmed by Island dreams

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To the Editor:During this season we are warmed by thoughts of cherished summer vacations on the Vineyard. My husband and I first visited during September 1986, when I was five months pregnant with our daughter, now well on her way to 26. Over the next few years, getaways to the Vineyard became a sanctuary to our sense of being a couple. Those getaways eventually morphed into 12 annual summer Gale family reunions, at the Mattakesett Properties, across from beautiful South Beach. Four brothers and their families, friends, and Pop Pop spread out over four condominiums for glorious days of sun, surf, sand, and dining on deck. The memories, especially for the cousins, are immeasurable.

A few years back, when I asked Pop Pop, who has since died, what his favorite lifetime memory was, he said ,”When we were all in line to board the Vineyard ferry.”

I remember him beaming. Pop Pop would pack a bushel of his garden tomatoes, frozen turkey, tenderloin, hamburgers and hot dogs, and once on-Island he shopped for his desired cut of swordfish, enough to feed the multitudes. It was just what he loved to do. The images of and gratefulness for those family times are captured in boxes of photo albums and thank-you notes to Pop Pop.

The cousins are now everywhere, from England to California, and at a recent cousin’s wedding, it appeared as if they had not missed a beat with their connections. It was as if Pop Pop were present, beaming, while witnessing the broad smiles and laughter shared among cousins, an expression of his legacy.

During those vacations, while cousins still in PJs gathered and snuggled on couches, sleep slipping away as they watched a favorite eye-opening video, Greg and I would sneak away. We rode bikes into the heart of Edgartown, where we bought coffee and muffins at Espresso Love, then located on Water Street. We sat on harborside benches, sipping coffee, imagining what it would be like to be aboard a sailboat moored out in the harbor, looking back at the town illuminated by dew speckled rays. We dreamed of owning a sailboat.

That dream evolved into a sailing lesson in Edgartown Harbor. And, once again the morph thing happened and other opportunities to be around boats presented themselves. Our children transitioned to young adulthood, and in 2005, we bought Galewarnings, a 36-foot sloop, homeport near Mystic, Connecticut. Greg earned his captain’s license and I a safe boating certificate.

By 2009, we found ourselves becoming more adventurous, so we agreed to tandem sail with dear friends from Block Island to the Vineyard. It felt as if we were setting off on a magic carpet ride to realize our dream. The weather forecast had been for light winds and two- to four-foot seas. But, two- to four-foot seas became eight to 10, and since I was at the helm, the motion more directly impacted Greg, who spent most of that journey horizontal on a cockpit bench. We learned of at least two other boats making the passage at the same time, whose crew experienced the same uncomfortable motion sickness, including our friends. We eventually lost sight of them. I quickly realized that either I had to remain at the helm or look and feel like Greg did. He periodically opened one eye to check on me and offered to switch places. I declined. I stayed at the helm for almost eight hours. When we rounded Gay Head Cliffs, and the seas flattened, I was overcome with that “I want to kiss the ground” feeling.

I felt like the Tin Man without his oil can when we stepped ashore following hours of clenching the wheel in an effort to keep us on course and head up and down the waves at the right angle so as not to be hit on the beam. Miraculously and safely we arrived in Menemsha, which holds fond memories of family times dining at the Home Port, buying ice cream, and strolling down the road to join in the applause at a Menemsha sunset. A cup of coffee and some brews eased the tension that had built up during that first, singlehanded sail to the Vineyard.

We spent a night on an outside mooring, but the forecast the next day did not favor remaining, as the outer harbor can become quite uncomfortable in unfavorable winds. So we sailed out into strong winds and choppy seas, and outran squalls, as we headed for sheltered Lake Tashmoo. While rafting alongside our friends, who had already picked up a mooring, I yelled loudly enough for all nearby boaters to hear, “the Watsons were trying to kill us,” during this quest to fulfill our dream of sailing into Edgartown Harbor. Our friends smiled as the harbor master arrived to tell us that we needed to “batten down the hatches” as 50-knot winds were predicted.

Those winds did not materialize. Instead, we had a lovely couple of days moored in Tashmoo, with dinghy access to a dock for our walks into Vineyard Haven. The morning we sailed into Edgartown was picturesque, sailing past the lighthouse beach, an artist at his easel. Our emotions had to have been on par with someone who just completed a circumnavigation. In town, we purchased Espresso Love coffee for brewing aboard, and the next day sitting on deck surrounded by warm hues of sunrise, we beamed just like Pop Pop used to, in all our gratitude.

We continue sailing to the Vineyard. And, we are grateful to our friends, Debby and Tom, who live there and, once again, invited us to welcome the New Year with them. I cannot think of a better space to reflect on memories that beam in our hearts, while being afforded time to dream dreams yet to be realized, during this quieting of the Island.

Lee Ann Gale

Wilbraham

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