Breakwater News : Adios, it's sea time
The sailing season got off to a slow start this year with a late spring and much rain early in the summer. The regattas and races were well attended and enthusiasm was as good as or better than normal according to the organizers. As summer passed into fall, there was a noticeable changing of routine in Vineyard Haven harbor. Summer sailors had their boats put up after Labor Day, and the Vineyarders took advantage of every opportunity to get out on those beautiful autumn days, taking in the best of the season, the bite of chill wind, bundled up in favorite sweaters, relishing in rosy cheeks and brisk salt spray.
Even in the weeks before Thanksgiving, those still in the water were making the most of the most delightful of late Indian summers. Not many places where there are seasonal changes and short winter days does the sailing community take such advantage of every opportunity to get on the water. And when one of our familiar boats raises a sail and drops the mooring, those on the beach stop to watch and share a bit in the delight of a late-season sail.
The boats that are heading off to warmer climes have gone. Young sailors, perhaps for the first time, are looking for adventure. A berth on a boat heading south is one of the great thrills, giving those so inclined to experience the challenge and feel the freedom of an ocean passage. It is perhaps one of the best ways a kid can get off on his or her own. In this age, an extended break from the cell phone, the computer, the Internet, the television and all the trappings of modern American culture can only be appreciated by those practically isolated by circumstance, and sailing is a lot more rewarding than jail.
It is just this kind of opportunity that has awakened the natural tendencies and nurtured the inner strengths of so many of our most illustrious Island inhabitants. Many of our neighbors and associates have benefited from time at sea. I have come to understand that almost every person I come in contact with here has a sea story. Very often, it is those stories that break the ice.
In the case of the men I work with on the Island, there is as yet a bottomless resource of soggy yarns. While in the process of building wooden boats, it takes very little to incite the telling of a tale. Boat builders by nature tend to be an independent lot with their own way of accomplishing any given task but the one thing they all have in common? They like sharing stories.
If you happen to be in Vineyard Haven on any given day, especially a cold winter day, stop by the shop at Gannon and Benjamin. In the beach shop you will find a warm spot by the wood stove and a friendly boat builder willing to keep you company with appropriate conversation. If you are better dressed, you might step around to the Mugwump shop behind the Net Result and see what's abuilding there. Likely as not you will find a couple of very talented Danes, Simon and Martin, building a 28-foot double-ended sloop to Nat Benjamin's design. They are not likely to stop long for palaver, but they are fun to watch and engaging nonetheless.
Also, you will inevitably come across Ross and Kirsten (Gannon) as they put on the final push for a June launch of their own 44-foot sloop. After three years of finding the time aside from raising and home schooling their twins and running a business, the boat that will emerge from that shop will be one of the most carefully conceived and executed vessels afloat. As an extension of the renowned hospitality of this extraordinary Island family, this should be a happy ship with a long list of wannabe crew members.
As for us, we have moved Crowflite to her winter berth in the Eel Pond in Woods Hole, and at this writing, we are on our annual pilgrimage to Futaleufu, Chile. Laura and I will be in the southern hemisphere for the summer, continuing with the adventure that is our alternate life in the Andes of Patagonia. It is the result so far of a life that started many years ago on the deck of a ketch headed south, headed for adventure, and the fertile mind of a young sailor. We'll be in touch.
Seaver Jones writes Breakwater News seasonally for The Times.