After a life­time of salt­wa­ter sail­ing, can lake sail­ing de­liver the same kind of joy? Plus, a sail­ing cargo ship and canned wine

SAIL - - Contents - By Eliot Da­ley

Ibe­gan my sail­ing life as a kid in an 8ft El Toro and a 16ft Snipe on Lake Miller­ton in Cal­i­for­nia’s San Joaquin Val­ley. I am con­clud­ing it as an 80-some­thing in a Rhodes 19 on Lake Da­mariscotta on the coast of Maine. So what does this have to do with the hardy, ocean­go­ing sailors who read SAIL mag­a­zine? Well, I’ve been where you’ve been, too, in be­tween my lake-sail­ing day­sailor days, and I’m here to tell you that there is life after salt­wa­ter.

My feel for boats came early and in­ti­mately, as my fa­ther—an ar­chi­tect and a master wood­worker—built a jig around which my brother and I

bent ply­wood to cre­ate our own El Toro sail­ing prams. Fol­low­ing our fa­ther’s per­fec­tion­ist lead, we en­sured that the slot in each screw head was aligned fore-and-aft, that the fi­nal pre-paint sand­ing was done with 360 grit (and tested for smooth­ness with the back of the hand, not the fin­gers or palm) and that the brush strokes were im­per­cep­ti­ble. A few cus­tom touches like lam­i­nat­ing the tiller with con­trast­ing woods put the fin­ish­ing touches to it. Once you set out from shore in a craft you’ve made your­self and noth­ing goes wrong, you’re hooked for life.

Be­fore long I grad­u­ated to a 16ft cen­ter­board Snipe and then an 18ft Mer­cury keel­boat, thrilled by com­pe­ti­tions on my home waters and at Still­wa­ter Cove in Peb­ble Beach. Later, I crewed on the 46ft Amorita in the fierce Sir Thomas Lip­ton Cup com­pe­ti­tions on San Fran­cisco Bay be­fore mov­ing to the East Coast. We soon dis­cov­ered the magic of cruis­ing Maine, pur­chased a cot­tage on an is­land and found boats to sail, and have now spent ev­ery sum­mer in Maine since 1974.

Be­yond day sails and overnight­ing, each sum­mer when our three kids were still with us fea­tured a fam­ily cruise along the Maine coast. As SAIL read­ers well know, such ex­pe­ri­ences are un­par­al­leled in call­ing forth both the functional in­ter­de­pen­dence and the abid­ing pa­tience re­quired to sus­tain life afloat for peo­ple con­fined within 35ft of each other non­stop, around-the-clock, for a week or 10 days.

Much more im­por­tantly, how­ever, only such ex­pe­ri­ences could oc­ca­sion what hap­pened in the cock­pit one day as we were glid­ing down Egge­mog­gin Reach on an ab­so­lutely per­fect sail­ing day. Our then-teenage daugh­ter Shan­non sud­denly burst into tears. We im­me­di­ately asked what was the mat­ter, and gath­er­ing her­self, she sobbed, “I don’t think I’ll ever—ever in my whole life—be as happy as I am right now.” Over the years, we’ve de­lighted in sail­ing other venues, from the Ch­e­sa­peake to the Wind­ward Is­lands in the South Pa­cific, and we’ve had a full share of the inevitable en­dur­ing joys and mo­men­tary ter­rors that all sailors live for. (“Live for” ter­rors? Sure. I’m not the only sailor who is en­livened by what I call “the hint of men­ace” ever-present in salt­wa­ter sail­ing.)

In the last few years, though, as age has taken its toll on my balance, strength and ap­petite for stress, I have found my­self less fre­quently yearn­ing to “go down to the sea in ships” and more fondly re­mem­ber­ing the tran­quil­ity of lake sail­ing. And so it was that last year I sold off the last of my coastal cruis­ing boats and found a derelict Rhodes 19 that had been left un­cov­ered for years to serve as a col­lec­tion bin for rot­ting leaves and a haven for lit­tle crit­ters seek­ing shel­ter. Im­prob­a­bly but ap­pro­pri­ately, it was named Wharf Rat.

Pro­pelled by the no­tion that both the boat and a new owner might have a dance left in them yet, I ac­quired her and plunged into a restora­tion project that con­jured up all the boy­hood grat­i­fi­ca­tions of cre­at­ing a craft to be proud of. After strip­ping off all its wood, I de­liv­ered the hull to Stuart Marine in nearby Rock­land, where she had been built in 1992. Many months and dol­lars later, the hull was re­turned to me bet­ter than new. Mean­while, I was hap­pily toil­ing away in my barn, grind­ing down decades of ne­glected var­nish and blem­ished wood to re­store the bright­work, re­fur­bish the spars and fit­tings and do­ing what­ever else was within my skill set. And of course the boat needed a new name, one that fit both her easy­go­ing na­ture and my own pur­pose for her. She is now called Peace.

Dur­ing our last sail of the sum­mer—a warm sunny day with a fine breeze pip­ing and the slight chop of Lake Da­mariscotta slap­ping her hull—I sud­denly felt a deep surge of nearly tear­ful emo­tion that made me won­der, like Shan­non on Egge­mog­gin Reach, if I could ever be this happy again. s

Won­der­ful though salt­wa­ter sail­ing is, lake sail­ing also has a com­pelling ap­peal

The Da­ley fam­ily en­joyed many sum­mers of cruis­ing the Maine coast

The au­thor’s salt­wa­ter boats in­cluded a pretty Non­such...

... and a Cape Dory 30

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