From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Five Friends, One Boat, and Max

Five Friends, One Boat, and Max
by Molly Winans

“…life is not fair. This is where happy hour comes in handy.”

Even if you love your job and excel at it—even if you’re a sailing editor or something equally as outdoorsy in theory—there are weekday moments when you are at your desk, wearing long sleeves to weather the artificial chill, alone in the harsh realization that it’s a stunning, summer day, and you’re stuck indoors.

You appreciate and need this job, but you don’t want to be stuck indoors. Butt in chair. Stay. You’re a grown up. It’s your job. Act productive. You should be out messing about on your boat or other peoples’ boats, washing your car, walking in the park, lounging on the porch with your feet up… anything but tapping on computer keys. It’s not fair. As your parents probably told you and as you may have told your kids, life is not fair. This is where happy hour comes in handy.

One of my favorite spontaneous happy hour plans began with a Facebook post. Volkswagen enthusiasts may remember how the company ramped up its television advertising campaign in the mid-1990s. Among the memorable ads was one depicting a group of young people driving to a party in a Cabrio convertible under a starry sky and a full moon to the tune of Nick Drake’s song “Pink Moon.” That the songwriter died at age 26 of an anti-depressant overdose and wrote rather somber music doesn’t detract from the joyful feel of the ad itself, in which the Cabrio crew arrives at the party, looks at the rambunctious party scene, glances at one another in silent agreement, and backs out into the moonlit night to drive around in peace.

At 9:21 a.m. on a sunny Friday in June, I heard the song “Pink Moon.” Knowing a few friends would comment on the song, which remains fairly obscure, I posted the opening lyrics on Facebook: “I saw it written and I saw it say, Pink moon is on its way.” Two minutes later, my friend Chris Charbonneau posted a comment to say that he thought we should go out on the boat with wine and cheese to listen to the song. By 10:57 a.m., we had a second motion for a floating happy hour. By 6:30 p.m., we had five friends, a couple of bottles of wine, a cheese tray, and a lifejacket-clad dog named Max on the well-loved 1980 Tanzer 24 Winola. We were cheerfully creeping along under sail in about three knots of breeze. When the wind fizzled enough to have us drifting backwards, we gave in and dropped the hook right there in the harbor.

Winola was not born beautiful or fast, yet she has been a platform for beautiful moments among friends for many years. My friend John Burke bought her 11 years ago for $2000 (including a few months’ slip fees), taught himself to sail on her, and even lived aboard for six months in between job and travel stints. (Burke is 6’3” tall. The Tanzer 24 has 5’9” of headroom. You could call this camping.) When Charbonneau moved to town a few years later, he and Burke became fast friends and co-owners of the boat. Charbonneau has taken a couple dozen out-of-town friends (from his seemingly endless supply) sailing on the boat and even proposed marriage to his wife Kate onboard.

You wouldn’t want to have five friends and a dog, even a short-legged Corgi like Max, cramped in Winola’s cockpit in a gale, but in three-to-zero knots in the harbor, we were happy summer campers with good cheese and olives and slightly-better-than-boxed wine. It doesn’t take much to erase the memory of clicking on the keyboard at your desk. A few hours with funny friends watching the sky turn from blue to pink to dark and starry will do. A quiet, “put-put-put” tour of the closest creek may help, and if you throw in a final beer and some chicken wings at the local pub before you call it a night, more than just the work day may be forgotten.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in waiting for ideal conditions before you get out on the water. You think you need a bigger, sleeker, more spouse- or kid-friendly boat. You need new sailing shoes. You have some rule about not going out when the forecast only calls for five knots. You only have a few hours. No matter. Go sailing. Being able to get out on the water for only a couple hours is one of the true privileges of those of us who live along the Bay. Get out there. Even if the wind peters out, and you spend an hour at anchor enjoying the night air, my four friends and Max and I re-discovered in one enchanted summer evening that a not-so-sexy old boat is every bit as good as a yacht for memory making.

Summer will be over in the blink of an eye. Don’t let this delicious season pass you by.

Winans is the managing editor of SpinSheet, PropTalk, and FishTalk magazines in Eastport, MD.. This article first appeared in the July 2010 issue of SpinSheet.

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