Constant Waterman 

From the Journals of Constant Waterman

SailingWe had a wretched time fighting with the outboard. It had started easily and taken us out of West Cove without complaint. We’d set our sails for Stonington and killed the little motor, tipping it up and out of the water as usual. The breeze was ample and out of the west and we had no need to tack the whole way down. We rounded up off Stonington and steered to pass behind Sandy Point and enter the channel that joins with the mouth of the Pawcatuck.

Drawing four feet, we hadn’t but a few yards breadth of safe water between the green, lighted buoy and the shoals and, summer time, the traffic through here can be daunting. Prudence dictated, “have the motor running.” I flopped the motor into the water, pulled the cord twice and it started. It ran twenty seconds and died. Again, with the same result.

We passed the last red marker and I jibed her about. I swore at the motor - got it started once more. It caught, it kicked, it sputtered, it grunted, it forswore service to all of mankind, forever. I taught it a new word and gave my attention to the tiller. With the wind dead astern, I slacked the main. The Genoa flapped twice and crossed to starboard - now we were “wing and wing.” “Wung out,” as the old timers say.

The boom nestled against the shrouds. I stooped and peered beneath it, and spied a big Bayliner steaming straight at us. Evidently we would meet at the narrows with only the scantest clearance. On her foredeck lazed a bathing beauty, clothed in little more than her natural endowments. On our present courses, my boom would get caught in her halter-top. With no room to turn, I straddled the tiller and hauled in the main sheet, sailing by the lee for the merest moment.

The bathing beauty blinked as the shadow of my sail interrupted her tan and the skipper fixed me with a baleful glare. Had we leaned a bit, we could have shaken hands.

Sailboats,” I imagined him mutter. He shoved his throttles forward as he passed the mark and the Bayliner leapt with a growl and a roar. I slacked my main quickly, wallowed once in his wake, and rippled down the channel with nary a sound.  Continued