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