"With its 228-mile coastline that takes in parts of Cape Cod, the mainland, and the lovely Elizabeth Islands, Buzzards Bay is one of North America's great cruising grounds. This is not only because its harbors are beautiful with good holding ground, and its breeze reliable and often fresh. This bay lies at the core of early American history. As Randall Peffer writes, it is 'an elbow in time.'" The 350-year engagement between Indians and colonists lies behind the areas colorful names: Craggy Neck and Scusset Beach; Cuttyhunk, Nashawena, Pasque, and Naushon islands; Padanarum, Sippican, Quissett, Mattapoisett, and Pocasset harbors; and the between-island "holes" or channels whose names are redolent of ancient owners and smugglers: Woods, Robinsons, and Quicks (which the old-timer with whom I used to cruise in a Friendship Sloop pronounced in a sort of hiss, "Quicksays").
An English teacher during the off-months, and the author of a well-received book on Chesapeake Bay, Randall Peffer spends his summers sailing Buzzards Bay in a 55-foot schooner, Sarah Abbott, on marine science research cruises with boys and girls of high school age. As his narrative of a summer on the bay proves, each cruise in Sarah Abbott offers the opportunity to explore at several levels biological and historical (including meetings with environmentalists and local writers), and within the minds and hearts of the young sailors and their captain.
He says he finds something new each summer: "I was discovering that spending time on this bay had a way of taking travelers into themselves to reconsider where they had been and where they were headed." To encourage his young crew in their own internal discoveries, he initiates them into a club, the Dead Pirates Society, whose stated purpose is "to suck the marrow of the sea." He also has them write daily logs from which he regularly quotes.
If Peffers cruise around Buzzards Bay and through his and his sailors lives is so leisurely that it sometimes seems to lack firm purpose, put it down to the unique type and nature of the experience. The reader whether old or young (water-entranced teenagers may well like this book even though it lacks illustrations) is free to skip around as Sarah Abbott gently circumnavigates the "elbow in time" that is Buzzards Bay.
Randall S. Peffer, Logs of the Dead Pirates Society: A Schooner Adventure around Buzzards Bay (Sheridan House). 240 pages, one map.