Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An ocean visit

Deb, Amber, Mary, Catherine and I spent today on Nantucket Island. We boarded the fast (22 kt) ferry at Cape Cod this morning and a little more than an hour later were slowly making our way through the harbor at Nantucket. I am a new sailboat enthusiast whose home marina is on a little lake in Illinois where a 36-foot Albin looks like a big boat. This was a whole different world.

The marina was packed with an exquisite collection of every kind of sailboat one could imagine.

Long, lean racing hulls, 50 feet and longer with massive masts and low deck profiles were tied side by side along the docks. Classic wooden boats with oiled decks and timber masts glowing in the sun bobbed gently on mooring balls. Tiny sailing dingys darted in and out among their larger sisters, at the tillers young sailors showing a surprising amount of skill, and no little daring. There was even a sweet looking Chinese junk with its strange looking cocked-up top-boom sail rig moving slowly through the inner harbor.

Among all the sailing splendor, tied up stern into a dock we could walk down, (multi-millionaire row where massive yachts including a couple of truly huge sailboats were tied, was off limits to mere day trippers) lay a Lagoon 440. It was Deb’s first chance to see a cruising catamaran up close and floating in its natural habitat. I believe that any debate we might have once had on mono vs. multi-hull is now settled. She was really surprised at how much beam a Cat actually has, and the windowed luxury of the Lagoon’s massive salon is a stunner. As Amber put it, “I’ve lived in apartments smaller than that.” Just one hull of the Lagoon would have as much, if not more, space in it than all of little Nomad. I think the debate now will be on just how much Cat is enough. The Annapolis boat show in October should go a long way in helping to narrow down the size range.

The ride out and back was on a powered ferry of 100’ or so and it was my first time on the open ocean in literally decades.

(The only other ocean trips involved diving as a teen-ager in Florida and one trip to San Clemente Island from San Diego in the early '70s.) The trip back to Cape Cod was the more spectacular of the two. With swells running maybe 3 to four feet and whitecaps all around you couldn’t have hit me hard enough to wipe the smile off my face. How I would have loved to have made that passage by sail! We passed several sailboats flying all their canvass, heeled over and throwing spray off their bows. I hope their crews enjoyed the sailing half as much as I enjoyed the show.

It may still not be something we can make happen, but the desire to retire onto a catamaran, (and maybe, someday, spend some time in Nantucket’s harbor) was certainly stoked by today’s visit. The open ocean, the short time spent out of sight of any land, and the shear numbers of sailboats both at Nantucket and (to a lesser degree) at the marina on Cape Cod, now tugs incessantly on my imagination. There are no sailors in my family history nor any ocean in my background, but I sure hope there are some of both in my future.

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