The Dark Side

There are fundamental axioms in sailing, just as in life. Among them is this: If you absolutely, positively have to be somewhere at a specific time, the wind will be blowing dogs off chains from the exact direction in which you need to go.

The correlative of that: Nothing goes upwind like twin 454s.

I know. As a serious sailor I am not supposed to even contemplate such sedition, let alone say it out loud. Until now, though, it’s been kind of like Jimmy Carter and the Playboy incident; admitting to lascivious thoughts may be enough to titillate the press corps and put Rosalynn into a snit, but it won’t get you impeached. (You need an intern for that.)

Likewise, just thinking about a Bertram 31 as one of my dream boats can’t hurt anything, right? I mean it’s just something in my head, like winning the Powerball so I can buy an island in the South Pacific and go native. It’s not like I’m actually going to go out and buy the boat, for crying out loud.

So my husband did instead. He did it in December, that most vulnerable time of the sailor’s year, when three months of winter looms like a low cloud ceiling. I couldn’t blame him. Besides, he was just going to buy it, fix it up a little and sell it in the spring. It was an investment. (Never mind that “investment boat” is far more oxymoronic than “military intelligence.”)

Then spring came, and with it, the sun. And the trophy rockfish season. And spontaneous evening trips to Cantler’s for crabs. “I talked to a broker,” Johnny said one day. “He said I’ll never sell it for the price I’m asking.” We both grinned. I could almost feel my feet sliding out from under me. I didn’t actually throw myself down the slippery slope, though, until the second weekend in June, when the forecast called for zero wind and we had a late start on Saturday. I was all set to pack up Luna so we could trundle down to the Rhode River or someplace else close (let’s be honest; trundling is what most sailboats do when they don’t sail) when Johnny said, “Hey. Why don’t we throw the sleeping bags and some burgers on the Bertram and zip over to the Wye? It won’t be as comfy as Luna, but we can build a campfire on the beach and cook on that. And we can be there in an hour.”

A person likes to think that, morally speaking, she is not the equivalent of a boneless chicken breast, that when faced with temptation she will keep her wits about her and remember her core values, those tried and true loves that have seen her through good times and bad and deserve her unwavering loyalty. Well. Obviously that person has never flown across the Chesapeake on the flybridge of a beautiful, brawny little boat that, on a glassy day, can go about 40 knots, instead of six. Obviously that person has never thrummed to the throaty rumble of twin 454s. I was hanging in there, silently reciting that part of the Lord’s Prayer about leading us not into temptation, but by the time we rounded the tip of Tilghman Island and made for the mouth of the Wye, I was a goner. It was too much fun.

Is my journey to the dark side complete? Hardly. Few things can compare to a broad reach under a starry sky and the steady quiet hiss of water rushing past the hull. Which brings me to another of those axioms: One boat is too many, and a dozen isn’t enough.