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Old 12-16-1999
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Bruce Caldwell is on a distinguished road
Last Sail of the Season

The marina began hauling boats out of the water and shrinkwrapping them three months ago. Yesterday I went out for the last sail of the season, something I've done numerous times since Labor Day.

If I haul, what on earth will I do with myself until spring launch? How can I not have Kirsten, the Mystic 20 catboat I bought in July, waiting at the dock for a sail? The end of the season is like someone telling you to put your toys away. Screwing up your face to look its most concentrated, you keep playing and hope the voice of authority will go away, leave you alone, and let the playtime go on forever.

So the question is, When will I obey? Maybe this week, when the temperature drops below freezing for a few days and I have to worry about ice building up in the little neck of Reeves Bay where the marina is located. Vinny at the marina said that when owners have waited too long in previous years, he's had to take a chainsaw out to cut ice away from the boats before he could haul them out.

OK, if the water is frozen solid, that's it. But I know the winters have been mild. Ice is rare and never lasts long. There's always the chance of a few warm days in December, January, and February when it would be really lovely to go for a sail. Maybe I could haul it, do the things that have to be done when the boat is out of the water, and then put it back in. Just in case.

Yesterday's last sail of the season proved I wasn't alone in feeling the way I do. When I got to the boat, I found a note taped to the cabin doors. At first my heart stopped; I thought it was from Vinny telling me that he wanted to haul the boat out. But it was a note from Dan J., asking me to call him if I was going out and needed an extra hand. He'd just gotten a catboat this summer too, and had brought it to the slip next to mine late in the summer. He'd already hauled his boat out, after taking his last sail of the season on a day when a wind over 20 knots was kicking up white caps and spindrift. I was at the dock that day, looking out at his boat wistfully, in awe because I was scared to go out in those kinds of winds. When Dan came back to the dock, I saw he and his friend had on foul weather gear to keep warm, and I remembered the saying "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes."

It was already nearly 4 p.m. when I called Dan. I told him I was going out for about an hour, a sunset cruise like the last "last sail" of the season I had taken the day before. He raced down to the dock within 10 minutes, not bothering to change. Since the temperature was just about 50 degrees with a 10-knot wind out of the northwest, he was bound to be cool in only khaki pants and a light jacket. When he saw that his black-bottom sneakers had left a mark on Kirsten's deck, he took his sneakers off too.

After the sail was up, filled with the breeze and pushing Kirsten through the water, I turned the diesel engine off. Silence greeted us except for the happy burbling of water along the hull. We both sighed and smiled.

Aside from a lobster boat picking up traps, we had the bays to ourselves. Miles of blue water under a gorgeous sky, with just a few small flocks of ducks here and there, calling out among themselves and beating the water with their wings to take flight when Kirsten glided nearby.

There's no such thing as a last sail of the season, is there?

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