Mckee Minute: Winter Cruise

A simple plan for a winter rendezvous, show up with your boat for a Saturday night get together at Port Madison, across Puget Sound from Seattle.

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Port Madison, Washington, on a tranquil morning.Jonathan McKee

It was a simple plan organized by my friend Carl. Show up with your boat for a Saturday night get together at Port Madison, a lovely cove just across Puget Sound from Seattle. Our friends are all sailors, but a few have power boats now. No judgement though, at least they are getting out on the water. It was a mix of eight yachts that arrived that afternoon. The weather did not really cooperate. You can’t expect much in January in Seattle, but this afternoon was even more dismal than usual, with relentless pouring rain and mist. However this did not seem to impact attendance, as the boats gradually arrived, plus three more couples by land.

The festivities began with a long walk onshore to stretch the legs and catch up with each other, followed by a spirited Frisbee golf game. Then it was cocktail hour, and a potluck dinner, followed by an animated charades game. Good cheer, stories and laughter were overflowing by the end of the night, and we all went to bed feeling so grateful for our long-time friends, and the chance to be together again.

One of our oldest friends has a degenerative nerve disease, so he can’t move or speak very well anymore. He was one of the best sailors of our peer group, owning big boats as well as 505s and one of the first 49ers in the US. It was heartbreaking to see him in a diminished state. But once you got talking to him, you realized he is still with it upstairs, and his eyes lit up when we started telling old sailing stories. I think all of realized how much gratitude we should have for our health, our shared history and our friends with which we have been through so much together. So instead of being a downer, our stricken comrade was an inspiration, and a reminder to the rest of us to live each day to the fullest.

Sunday morning dawned misty, with the sun trying valiantly to push the wispy clouds away. Steam was rising off our decks as coffee was made and tales were softly retold. We had a nice breakfast, hung out for a bit, then shoved off for home, and a return to the soccer games and responsibilities we had played hooky from for a day. My wife Libby and I had a mellow motor back across Puget Sound to our marina. We felt alive. This group of our sailboat racing friends has been together for nearly 40 years, and we still enjoy each other’s company. There are not many activities that can create bonds like that.

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Our merry band, friends for over 30 years.Jonathan McKee