My wife and I had set out later than we'd planned for our first overnighter on our first sailboat, a Mystic 20 catboat named Kirsten. It was already dark so we switched on the running lights. The small red, green, and white glows reflected off the smooth, dark waters and gave us a reassuring feeling of security. A full moon helped light the way as we motored out of the marina and into Reeves Bay. Soon our eyes adjusted to the night and we were able to pick out the lobster pot buoys, the channel marker into Flanders Bay, and finally the distant light of the green can buoy on the north side of the bay.
The evening was windless. The one-cylinder Yanmar diesel putt-putted steadily as we searched for the red nun buoy light to the east, and tried to pick out landmarks among the dark shapes on the shoreline. The glowing binnacle compass helped us round Goose Creek Point and enter an anchorage lined with woods. Watching closely as we neared a darker line just above the water, we sighted on two lights ashore to help fix our position, and dropped anchor.
Julie and I had never been out at night on the boat before, and we'd never anchored before. This wasn't exactly the circumnavigation I fantasize about, but it was enough adventure for the time being.
A D.J. was calling out songs at a party in full swing on the far side of the bay until after 11p.m. When the music stopped, other sounds broke through the initial silence. The anchor rode thunked and thrummed against the wire bobstay as Kirsten swung around her anchor. The mast creaked, a fish splashed, and a bird called out in the darkness. The boat's motion was unfamiliar, but the bunks were comfortable and blankets kept us cozy against the evening chill. Despite the mystery of the evening, we managed to drift off to sleep.
When I woke, the sun was just beginning to climb above the ridge of trees on the point to the east of us. Faint light painted the gentle swell with bronze and purple, and a heavy mist was rising from the water. Egrets and herons began their silent stalking along the sandy shore of a small grassy island nearby while cormorants perched on fishing stakes, spreading their wings to the morning sun.
Aside from soaking up the beauty around me, I was marveling at how close I had come to running Kirsten into the fishing stakes and the island.
I carried the alcohol stove out to the cockpit, lit it, and began boiling water for coffee. By the time I was enjoying my first cup, Julie came up from the cabin and looked around.
"I hardly slept a wink last night but this makes it all worth it, doesn't it?" she asked.
We wiped the dew from the cockpit seats and broke open a box of donuts while looking over the chart and identifying the creek entrances around us. The sun had burned away the morning mist and was beginning to warm us.
As the sun rose higher, the errands and appointments awaiting us on shore interrupted our reverie. We started the engine, hauled the anchor on board, and started back for the marina. There was barely any breeze, but Julie wanted to shut the engine off, raise the sail, and take the tiller. As the sun highlighted the sail with golden color, enough west wind filled in for us to return to the silence of the morning as we ghosted north around Goose Creek Point.
Rounding the point, we were back in Reeves Bay, still ghosting along. An osprey circled before diving into the water near us. He rose back into the air with nothing in his talons and began circling again.
Approaching the marina, we reluctantly cranked the engine up again, dropped the sail, and maneuvered into our slip. Although we had not been out many times together, we handled the small chores of securing the boat, furling the sail, and fastening the sail cover without any fuss or dialogue. The few minutes it all took were pleasingly intimate.
Our pocket-sized adventure was over, but we were just starting something new for the both of us.