Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sometimes I Ride, Sometimes I Sail

Sometimes, when I am not Up On Two Wheels, I am instead Up on Two Hulls.

Cromwell and Me
I sail the local waters on a Hobie Cat catamaran, sometimes alone, and sometimes with my Sailing Buddy, the Erstwhile Sam Cromwell, local Potter and area Bon Vivant. Here's a tale of One of Our Rides...

Shipyard Island
We cut in quick and hard across the north end of Shipyard Island. The starboard hull is leaping in and out of the water like a porpoise skipping in the sunshine. At this moment I feel more akin to anything happy and natural as I ever will. The wind is from the Southeast at 12 to 14  knots and this Hobie is damn well screaming across the Indian River on a day that started out with us looking suspiciously at the tops of palm trees in search of any Evidence of Wind; but it is blowing well enough now. Cromwell has a big stupid grin on his face, sitting there on the mainsail boom, steering with his left foot. I’m hiked out to windward, bottle of rum in one hand and the other hand hanging on tight to the port shroud as I sling as many of my 200 pounds as I can into the wind, for fear we might go over. This part of the lagoon has a bottom uncomfortably close to the top and we have been upside-down more than once.

The Lagoon
I let out a loud “Wee-hoo!” and listen for an echo, but when you are in the Mosquito Lagoon sound travels far over the water...and never comes back.

As we come abreast of the campground at the North End of the Island, Cromwell puts the rudder over hard and we sweep right up onto the sandy beach. I am always surprised at the gentle action of driving onto shore in a catamaran. She just sighs in, as though the land were as natural a place to be as the water. After beaching the boat we stand around for a minute getting accustomed to the lack of motion and the feel of solid ground. Cromwell digs into the cooler for a couple of beers.

“That was sweet,” he says, a huge grin still plastered on his face. He hands me a frosty, dripping cold can. I slip it into my day-glo-orange holder and take a sip. Damn. After a screaming beam reach across that thin, glistening open water, so flat and smooth you want to weep, then the frostiest of cold beer...

“Sweet indeed, my brother, we were truly haulin’ ass back there. And my compliments on your mastery of the Cap’n Dave Hang-Five sailin’ style. Pure barn stormin’.”

“Thank you, my brother. And Cap’n Dave thanks you. And wasn’t the rum just somewhere around here somewhere?”

“Just over there jammed in next to the life vests. I stashed it there at the precise moment you did that wonderfully executed little onshore jibe.” He rummages around in the Pile of Stuff we always have strapped all over the Cat.

What Next?
“Ah yes, here it is, stashed precisely as you said! Salut!” He raises his arm in a toast and I raise my beer to clink against the half-full bottle. Cromwell, looking out across the great expanse, the afternoon sun making brilliant sparkles on the surface of the crystalline water, says, “Now then, what next?”

And I don’t know what to do next. The day is so perfect, so clear, everything seems so clear, it could just end here. Just precisely here. “ I don’t know what to do next,” I say. “Let’s go look at The Stream.”

The Stream
What we refer to as ‘The Stream’ is actually some kind of man-made cut running right up the middle of Shipyard Island. Small finger cuts run at right angles to the main canal, which is about three miles long. These small finger cuts are about forty to sixty yards long and quite mysterious. We walk over from the camp area to where the stream enters the main body of the lagoon. The Mosquito Lagoon is so vast here, some ten miles wide, that the effect is quite that of being alone on a desolate island in some far away place. In fact, you are alone on a desolate island in some far away place.

Cromwell spoke first. “I think you’re right. The way the tide is running, we could just put her in here and drift straight down the middle of the Island to the South End.”

“Precisely. Then, when we get to the South End, we can cut North hard out of the Stream and catch this southeast breeze on a long broad reach, running with the current, one tack all the way to the landing with one hull in and one hull out!” We do a perfect high five. It really is a perfect day.

“How much beer do we have left?” Cromwell asks. The question is a ritualistic one, for we have long ago learned to bring Plenty Of Beer.

“Looks like enough for the journey,” I reply, glancing through the cooler. “Plus the Rum.”

“The Rum must be saved for medicinal use only,” he says. “So speaks the Captain.”

“Aye-Aye, Cap,” say I, carefully stowing the bottle in its snug nest among the child-sized life preservers.

“Captain’s Reserves stowed as ordered. Prepare to shove off?”

“Prepare to shove in is more like it, don’t you think, Watson?”

“Indeed, Holmes! Let us shove in, then, the game is afoot!”

This Is How Ya Do It

We gently ease the boat into the shallow stream in the middle of the island. The falling tide creates a kind of false current which we plan to ride three miles south to the far end of the Island. The high shell mounds on both sides of the stream, combined with the huge heaps of “diggings” made by the mysterious creators of the canal are effective at blocking the wind.

The sails slat lazily about. Caught in the current at about 3 knots, I steer by lying back on the trampoline and hanging one leg over the rudder crossbar. Cromwell hands me a fresh beer.

Pelicanus Goldentoponos

The day is preternaturally fine. In the middle of March it is still too cold for Ocean Sailing on a beach cat, and too rough, although we constantly talk of giving it a try. But here in the Indian River, a half mile west of the beach, the water is warm, the days are crisp and clear, and as I lay back and listen to the primitive sounds of the primordial island all about me, I thank God that whatever other trials and tribulations are laid before me, I at least get a day like this one once in awhile.

The little Hobie is handling like her reed-raft ancestors handled centuries before, responding lightly to the helm and skimming swiftly across water that is little more than ankle deep. One huge old Gold-Cap Pelican finds his deep thoughts suddenly disturbed by this brightly-colored intrusion ghosting slowly by. Rising grumpily from his perch he slouches away, his great, ponderous flapping producing just enough lift to carry him slowly away from this rude apparition. He cruises, graceful now, in a long, slow, gliding arc that carries him ultimately back to his original resting place. The Sun is a Lazy Friend, smiling and burning and warming our skin and warming the trampoline beneath our bodies.

Typhoid !

“Feeling a bit feverish, Cap.” A dragonfly buzzes over the tip of my nose.
“What’s that?” cries Cromwell, “Typhoid on my vessel? It shall not be! Break out the medicine!” He reaches over to the rum-nest and pulls forth the bottle. Taking a hearty draw, he coughs and chokes and passes the bottle to me. “Har! Strong medicine,” he says, gasping a little.
“Aye, Cap,” I say, “Just the thing for a touch of the ol’ typhoid, though, just the thing.” I take my own hearty pull and pass the bottle back. The dragonfly hovers daintily over the life vests. If we time everything precisely the medicine will last just long enough to get us to the South End. From there we will not need any more medicine, for our hands will be full enough, full of wind and wire and screaming; screaming across that sweet, smooth, glistening lagoon, the glorious burning sun easing into the horizon, settling gently into our thousand-hued wake.

This One's For the Cap

But just now there is no indication of the excitement ahead. Just now is all Warm Sun and Dragonfly; all subdued comments about nothing;  it is occasional rustlings in the ice chest;  it is Pelican and Dragonfly and Quiet Stream.

“Here’s to Cap’n Dave,” I say.
“Here’s to Cap’n Dave,” said Cromwell.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Old Sailor's Home


  1. thanks for your comment. i think being called jaquie phelans evil little sister is about the best compliment i have rec'd. right on.

  2. Well done, TJC. I dig cycling and sailing for a number of reasons. There is something special about pushing a bike down the road at full tilt when the weather is fine and thoughts are finer. And there is something just as special about coming in on a Hobie riding on one pontoon with the breeze laughing and the sun giving one last wink. - KAZ