No Sheets to the Wind

The university where I work decided to make this long weekend extra-long, giving us Tuesday and Friday off as well. Gwenanne also had Friday off, so we headed down to Lake Ontario to do some boat chores. Some of you know that our dear Santa Maria is on the hard this year, as are all boats in our marina due to some Covid related construction delays.

For Christmas this last year, we had decided to buy each other a new set of sail for our boat. We heard news this week that they were ready. Kevin at Bay Sails did a great job, and he was sympathetic at our plight of getting new sails without having opportunity to use them. But we remain philosophical about it. This is a summer for working on the boat.

It was really most amazing to see his workshop. The floor really was the table and here and there, there were work stations cut into the hardwood surface in which he would stand while doing industrial sewing. Hammock-like “shelves” hang from the ceiling filled with fabric, and sails were strewn everywhere. A big window to the north looked out on the bay and I felt like I was in a different world. The sails were crisp and so firm that they felt like they could stand up on their own.

After picking up the sails we went to a marine supply store to get a new thru-hull fitting for the boat. Our boat’s kitchen sink thru-hull sprang a leak last year that we fixed with McGyver finesse. But now is the time to fix it properly, and so we pulled out the old thru-hull and prepared to put in the new one, which will need a new piece of teak, sitting at home and waiting to be fitted for service. After supper at a local diner, where a pilsner and a burger were the reward for an afternoon of sweat, my wife and I returned to remove the halyard that lifts the fore-sail, this too in need of replacement. And then we headed home.

It is nice to be by the water even when we cannot be on the water. Water somehow gives me the sense of a bigger something, that I can be a part of. Karl Rahner famously compared God to a horizon, always before us and never in our grasp, but still grasping us. Big bodies of water nicely illumine the drama of a horizon, especially when the sun sets and the fact of the world’s spinning on its axis becomes dramatically apparent. I was able to see a bit of this spinning on Lake Ontario on Friday. Of course, the world is always spinning, but every now and then the light changes and we see what is right before our eyes and under our feet.

This present Corona crisis is such a revelatory moment, in a way. A variety of Covid predicaments are opening our eyes and we’re seeing whom we are for good and for ill. Our values become more starkly evident as our anger reveals our fear and as we find joy in things long forgotten but discovered again. These times tell us a bit about the state of our souls as we differently face life, pulsing through us and around us despite our waylaid plans.

The sails may be in the bags, but the wind still moves us as she will.

4 thoughts on “No Sheets to the Wind

  1. arlavergne says:

    This is a lovely piece. Takes me back to earning a Certificate to Steer and Act as Coxswain which was affixed to my Seaman’s Continuous Certificate of Discharge a.k.a. “discharge book” in 1972. It also takes me to a recent drive-by of the Bluenose II along the coast of St. Martins, NB, where my mother’s family settled as Loyalists. A cousin posted some pictures to my FB page this morning. I have a sailing model of Bluenose built by my father, one of several. I think the largest hangs in the nave of a church in Montreal. Mine is only 5ft tall (minus the keel which my father poured from molten lead into a plaster-of-paris mould in our kitchen when mom was out) by about the same long. The keel does not scale and appears outsized in a sailing model and is therefore left off when the model is suspended from the ceiling for viewing as in our rec room where it appears with two other boats, one named for my mother (Ingrid Boyer Smith) and one named Peer Gynt in honour of her father (Kaare Smith).

    Anyway, ships ahoy. Great entree into pandemic times and a pandemic world and a bit of vaguely-related nostalgia for me.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Thanks for these musing Andre! I recall seeing some pictures of your yacht collection, but I did not recall your having been a coxswain, along with other seaman duties! Yes, the keel of a sailboat is huge and could cause some headaches hanging from a ceiling! Some years ago I started a small model of the Bluenose II, but the project has been waylaid. Perhaps one day…

  2. shoreacres says:

    What a lovely post. I’ve spent a bit of time in sail lofts, and they are interesting places. It’s always fun to listen to the sailmakers’ conversations prior to an offshore race. They really don’t want any harm to come to anyone, but should the weather forecast be iffy, you can see the dollar signs glimmering in their eyes!

    I can’t believe I’ve never heard of the Bluenose, or Bluenose II. I just had a lovely browse around learning about the vessels, the restoration project, the purported mismanagement… Projects like that always have their problems, but that is one glorious vessel.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Thanks! Yes the Bluenose is a beauty! It was on our dime for a time, so Canadians know of it even if they know nothing about sailing. Our sailmaker suggested we have our sails tuned up every other year… I have never heard of that!

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