PETE GOSS

Yachting Monthly - - CONTENTS - PETE GOSS

Sail slow, en­joy more

Afalling tide gen­tly draws our dinghy out of an in­let sur­rounded by reed beds. The mir­ror-like sur­face cap­tures the tran­quil­ity of the mo­ment as we le­vi­tate from one re­flected cloud to an­other. My feet hang over the side, nib­bled by hun­dreds of tiny fish just above the muddy sand that heaves with shell­fish. An osprey, from high on a nav­i­ga­tion bea­con, keeps us en­ter­tained with his quiet chirrup­ing. An egret stalks haugh­tily about the flats, its slen­der neck dart­ing for fish with light­ning speed. The sun is low, the wa­ter warm and we are com­pletely charmed.

The in­let spits us into Three Mile Har­bour and we row over for a chat with Jo and Saul, who are re­tired and a pic­ture of con­tent­ment. Their ban­ter is punc­tu­ated with peals of laugh­ter as they dig for clams, huge ones.

They are al­lowed to take 50 a day but it’s not re­ally about the clams for them. Like us, they have been se­duced by this lovely bay. We de­cide to linger for an­other day and sink fur­ther into its charm. Har­mony re­quires time and so we start to res­onate with the bay’s rhythm. It car­ries us along, our lin­ger­ing pres­ence at­tracts Fred out in his row­ing boat for a chat, he in­vites us to a bar­be­cue with his friends.

We are in Long Is­land Sound, a patch­work quilt of con­trasts. Not three hours sail­ing from here we were in Mys­tic, a stun­ning lo­ca­tion that houses the Mys­tic Sea­port Mu­seum. I have al­ways wanted to visit the mu­seum’s 19 acres of what Tracey calls ‘boat porn’. It’s a work­ing yard and mem­o­ries of Spirit of Mys­tery flood back with the noise of bang­ing hand tools.

Money, with New York just over the hori­zon, is in abun­dance and can be seen in each boat. Top notch car­bon rac­ing ma­chines, beau­ti­ful Her­reshoff cre­ations re­stored to per­fec­tion. As a Brit, one might be tempted to look at the boats in a ma­rina as a ‘piss­ing con­test’. The high-speed mo­tor­boats cap­ture this in their testos­terone-fu­elled names like Dev­as­ta­tor, Con­queror and, I kid you not, Be­tween the Sheets.

The houses on the shore­line are of comic pro­por­tions – they’d be called a ho­tel in Corn­wall. A cou­ple of them have a pri­vate closed-in ma­rina but the tragedy is that the houses are shut­tered and the boats strapped down. The cur­rency that pays for all this is time at the grind­stone, so when it comes to us­ing your toys, time is in short sup­ply. En­joy­ment of the good things in life can usu­ally be neutered by an all-con­sum­ing quest for big­ger and bet­ter. The wis­dom of ‘go with what you’ve got’ is cap­tured in the wise, open smiles of Jo and Saul as they dig for clams. Some things can’t be bought and this, for us, is what the cruis­ing life of­fers. It’s a dif­fer­ent time zone and the more we grope about in it the more we re­alise we haven’t quite found our pace. We don’t need to main­tain the so­ci­ety’s pace, where even hol­i­days are lived at a hun­dred miles an hour, gasp­ing for ev­ery bit of lib­er­at­ing oxy­gen on of­fer.

Our de­fault, de­spite 10 months of cruis­ing, is still to rush over the hori­zon. It is drain­ing, and so much that can only come with pa­tience is missed. Our plan had been to cruise Maine but after los­ing two weeks to an en­gine re­call and two weeks to some work in Europe, time was tight. In our quest, we had stopped in three ports for a kip with­out ven­tur­ing ashore. It felt wrong and so Nan­tucket called for a re­view. Less is more, was the con­clu­sion after a bot­tle of red. It was like a weight lifted and so we were able to drift into Three Mile Har­bour and nes­tle into its magic, re­flect­ing that not a cou­ple of weeks ago we had charged past this place in an un­quench­able thirst for more. Jo, Saul and their clams had taught us a valu­able les­son.

The good things in life are neutered by the quest for big­ger and bet­ter

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