Though named after the swift and agile jackalope, our fourdecade-old Sabre 34 is not a race boat. I’ve sailed on race boats, and I would observe that they seldom have full water and fuel tanks, packed lockers, a dodger, or a barbecue mounted on the stern rail when they cross the starting line.
Still, there we were, my wife, Sue, and I, in Nahant, Massachusetts, one Sunday last August aboard Jackalope, which these days lives on Narragansett Bay, 80 or so miles to the south of our hometown.
Like a lot of sailing adventures, this one could be attributed directly to a couple of cold beers, and a brilliant idea: “I’ll just sail our boat up for the weekend,” I’d told our good friend and longtime sailing pal Peter Davis a few weeks earlier. We were talking about details for a memorial race organized by the Nahant Dory Club, in memory of his wife, Peggy, who passed away quite unexpectedly last New Year’s. The idea was to raise money for one of her favorite charities, the Cam Neely Foundation, which we were happy to support, of course, but that’s not really why we wanted to be there. Peggy was a great gal.
Nahant is a small town, surrounded by ocean, just north of Boston. It’s a good place to raise children and sail. When all of our kids were small, Peter and Peggy and Sue and I dragged our families up and down the New England coast on our various boats together, summer after summer. Candy was often exchanged for peace and quiet. The kids were encouraged to take dinghy rides at a young age, and often. Once, on a visit to a museum in Rockland, Maine, Peggy taught the little dears how to make spitballs and shoot them through straws. Not everyone was amused.
Back then, with kids in tow, we often raced all across Broad Sound against the Davises. But more recently, with our boat in Newport and the kids grown, I more often than not sailed with Peter aboard his Ericson 34, Moondance, sometimes with Peggy, sometimes not, whenever I was in town on a race day.
For the memorial, though, it seemed like we should have our boat there, with a crowd aboard, of course.
Sue actually liked the idea. Before I knew it, she and my daughter Lily had signed on as delivery crew and put in for vacation days on Thursday and Friday. Our older daughter, Rebecca, made plans to cut her own vacation short by a day to join us for the big event. Friends were eager to pull some lines too — and I hadn’t even bought an Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book to see if it was possible to make it through the Cape Cod Canal in time for the start!
That Thursday turned magical very quickly. Though the forecast was for a blustery sou’wester and summer boomers late in the day, we got an early start and motorsailed down the bay in light air. Just before we reached Beavertail Light, Jackalope was surrounded by leaping dolphins. Then, right as we pointed the bow east, the promised southwesterly kicked in at 20-plus knots and we were off. Almost unimaginable, we even had the tide and current with us as we bounded up Buzzards Bay.
We stopped for the night in Marion, and were already underway for the canal when the tide turned in our favor at 0830. All day Friday was more of the same. Good breeze, fair current, and though we saw thunderheads to the south and north, we enjoyed sunshine and sailed nearly the entire way. Before we knew it, Graves Light was in our sights, and right after it, Nahant. It had been eight years since Jackalope had last visited her home port, and it felt fine to be back.
Saturday, just about the time the race was supposed to start, a front came through and afternoon lightning delayed events on the water. But the weather cleared out in time for the party that evening, and it seemed as though everyone came and jumped off the town wharf.
The wind was light on Sunday at the 1300 start of the race, but the sea breeze filled in, and it was a beautiful bluesky afternoon — so fine, in fact, that once we and Moondance crossed the finish, the crews of both boats went sailing.
It was a weekend to remember for all sorts of reasons. And for Sue and me, it was the start to our summer getaway. We spent the next week sailing back south, taking our time and visiting harbors we hadn’t seen for a while.
I think Peggy would have loved it all.
All day Friday was more of the same. Good breeze, fair current, and though we saw thunderheads to the south and north, we enjoyed sunshine and sailed nearly the entire way. BY MARK PILLSBURY
The Davis family crew, aboard their Ericson 34, Moondance, look fast as they beat their way upwind.