Sailing along through summer

sailing 7 - 107.18.19

“There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.” – Kenneth Grahame, Wind in the Willows

It’s fun to look out at the lake on any given afternoon, see that there’s a good wind, and decide to take a little sail before dinner.  The good wind always dies at some point, or totally changes direction, but, such is the nature of the adventure.  As a sailing team, we are slowly improving.  Don seldom shouts out to me, “No, I mean the other starboard side!” and I don’t yell out so often, “I’m really scared.”  I was just beginning to think I should bring cocktails aboard, which we would sip whilst we enjoyed the scenery, and wile away a pleasant afternoon, far away from the bad news of the world, when Don said to me on our last voyage, “Now, if I were to fall overboard, all you have to do is steer directly into the wind and the sails will luff and you can just stay there until I swim to the boat.”  Later I said to him, “But, what if you hit your head and are unconscious?”  He told me that wouldn’t happen.  But, I decided it was not yet time for cocktails.

Nevertheless, if I don’t think about that contingency, there is a relaxing idleness when you just skim through the water, the clear wind in your face, and take in the lovely view, far away from the bad news of the world.  Even when the wind dies, and you adjust the sails to capture whatever whiff of breeze might materialize, it’s quite pleasant to just bob in place.  You feel like you should bring out a deck of cards and play gin–along with those cocktails.  I like how you’re not headed anywhere and you basically are “always busy, and you never do anything in particular.”  But, eventually you have to come back home to port, tacking and jibing, and concentrating hard on remembering what you’re supposed to do, in a language that has not created a groove of any sort into your neural pathways.  At last, the boat is secured to the mooring ball, all buttoned up and tied down, and you can sit in the red wicker chair at the dock, with a well-deserved cold beer.

We are in the throes of too much wind for sailing right now, as a cold pressure system moves into place.  There are high wind warnings on the lakes for several days, and even a hint that light snow could dust the peaks of Glacier Park.  Past the mid-point of July, it has been one of those summers that used to be here–cool and rainy.  It seems so strange that most of the country is under a “heat dome” with record-breaking high temperatures and miserably high humidity.  I wouldn’t want to admit it to anybody, but I find myself a tad bit nostalgic for summer days like that.  Growing up in northeastern Ohio, these were the summers of my childhood, as well as early adulthood when I lived in St. Louis, and, in Boston, where my daughters lived their earliest years.  We never had air conditioning and I remember just listlessly sitting outdoors in the shade while they played in the sprinkler, waiting, waiting for dusk, and maybe a cool breeze, so I could get them into bed.  I dusted them with talcum powder so their cotton nightgowns wouldn’t stick to their sweaty bodies and turned on the window fan.   I’ve talked here before about being soothed to sleep by the rhythmic sound of a parchment window shade slapping against the window; but, I am quite sure that at the time, it drove me nuts.  Summer memories are all about nostalgia for what may or may not have ever been, and that is their charm.

Just in time for the family’s arrival next week, finally, at last, long-delayed, NOAA is calling for “the first serious heat wave of the summer,” with temperatures in the 90’s.  Next week is a bit outside statistical reliability, but they say all the models are consistent.  If true, what great timing to warm up the glacial lake water for swimming and paddle boarding, and kayaking.  And, there’s always sailing…

“Only two sailors, in my experience, never ran aground. One never left port and the other was an atrocious liar.” – Don Bamford

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