Last week, I thought my sailing life was in order. Over its course, I have cruised all over the Atlantic coast, England and Ireland, the Caribbean, and the Med; sailed across the Atlantic; and raced to Bermuda as well as around the buoys on any number of other people’s boats in the Annapolis area.
These days, with two young kids and plenty of other distractions, I am down to a Laser. But I’ve been happy with that. Over the winter, I race it in a great frostbite series on the Potomac, in Washington, DC. During the summer, I take it out to the Chesapeake Bay and race Friday in casual races and in weekend regattas when I can. Everything seemed fine.
Watch it when you have time and can settle into its easy rhythms with a rum and tonic in hand (I’d urge you perhaps to smoke a little something, but…)
The Rhode River is my home waters. In fact, I’m looking at the Rhode right now (light breeze, a few boats, pretty as always). But I no longer cruise and explore Chesapeake tributaries like this. I power across them sometimes, on my way to somewhere else. And, if I race across them, I’m not looking at the wildlife or listening to the sound of fish, birds, and frogs. Instead, I’m focused intensely on only the things that might help me go a little faster or threaten to make me go a little slower: puffs, shifts, chop, powerboats. It’s a completely different world than the world of the Muddy Creek video.
As I watched, I felt a visceral yearning for this quiet, contemplative world. The video made me remember the sublime peace of enjoying a lonely anchorage or drifting past a headland—in no rush, with no particular destination—as the sun rises over it. It made me remember why I loved cruising so much, why I loved being on the water with no agenda and no stress, and how much I miss it.
I love racing. But have I sailed many regattas this year? Not so much. In the short time it took me to watch and listen to one video, my sailing life was exposed as being out of balance, as lacking. I hadn’t even realized it. I was just drifting along in a rut, letting inertia make my choices for me. Have Laser. Sail Laser (occasionally).
That’s clearly not enough. It’s time to shake it up and rediscover my cruising roots, to hook my kids on its simple pleasures, to show them the unmatched beauty of the Rhode and other Chesapeake jewels, where, if you tuck into the right corner, you’ll hear not a single man-made noise— just the lap of water, the splash of a fish, the fussing of a goose, and the whisper of the wind through reeds.
That’s sailing, too, and I hope I never forget it again.