Sacred places, timeworn traces


We put two reefs in the mainsail in calm winds, and it looked like a mistake. The forecast was for 25-30 knots of wind in the harbor–not too much to sail. Enough to decide to reduce the sail area by some. A reef point is a grommet in the mainsail that lets the lower part of the sail be tied to the boom, so the sail is only partially raised. A reef is ungainly. It destroys the aesthetic line of the sail. Similarly, it is inelegant to have to luff the sail to spill wind and reduce power. But there is a time for everything. These are measures of caution.

When there is too much wind for the amount of sail, the boat is said to be overcanvassed. It becomes inefficient, if not outright dangerous. A wise sailor may put in three reefs ahead of an approaching storm, and shake them out later if they aren’t needed.

It’s worth noting, I haven’t yet found the reef points for human relationships.

We weren’t wrong. About the reefs, I mean. Out in the channel, away from the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan, the wind filled in as expected. A storm cell kept time with our passage, moving south as we did, staying off on the shoulder, sheets of rain visible in the sunset. The undersides of the clouds turned pink, peach, rose, trailing spider webs of mist, drifts of color and light. We clocked the boat speed at 9.6 knots, against the current. Fast. Not carbon fiber trimaran fast, but fast enough. Fast for a 30 foot Cheoy Lee with a reefed sail hugging the elements.

The sky and the sea, hues of warmth reflected into watery greens and grays, took me back to another sea, another sky, on the opposite edge of the continent. A small beach, a place called Little Corona. I used to go there to sit, to think, to pray to whatever might be listening. My mind holds an image of my children playing there, in the tide pools, on one of the last days before I changed their lives. I watched the sun rise there one morning, on a rock in the tides, and ever so timidly held hands with a man I would come to love. And lose. I sat there alone on the unspeakable days, my fragile mind wrapped softly in the sun, and the warm sand, the roar of grief and possibly madness lulled in the rocking, crashing of the waves.


Under this sunset, on this night, on this eastern edge of the continent, the boat behaved well. Barefoot on a dry teak deck, I can feel everything I need to feel. The helm takes a strong hand, but responds. Sky and sea, water and wind. Tonight there is no fear. Nothing is unmanageable. For just this moment, I am where I need to be.

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