The night before our maiden voyage, Peter’s brother came down to visit. The three of us were sitting in Gratitude‘s cockpit, enjoying the sunset while Andy recounted the story of how he and Russ took a train to New York when Russ first bought the boat (then called Ocean Rose) back in 2007.
I’ve always known these two to be happy with warm beer and bologna sandwiches, so I wasn’t surprised to hear Andy’s cavalier description of how they filled a cooler, got underway and got out in the Atlantic. Andy described their series of watches down the New Jersey coast to Philadelphia and told me how easy the boat was to sail. I knew that part of Andy’s story was to provide forgotten background on boat, and part was Andy encouraging me, making me feel like nothing is as difficult as I imagine it to be. I’d just confided in both Peter and Andy that I’d need a little coaching to take this new-to-me boat in and out of a new-to-me slip, on the other side of the marina. Andy had to rush off, but promised to return the next day to be on board for our maiden voyage of Gratitude.
Later that Saturday night, after a friend stopped by for a casual dinner, Peter and I started arguing about how quickly an effective narrative moves through time—that may have been what sent our guest back to his own boat! Meanwhile, I pulled the thick green paperback copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls from the book shelf. “This takes 500 pages to cover just four days!” I retorted to Peter’s now-forgotten argument. The book was one I’d read right around the time Peter and I met and because it centers on the Spanish Civil War, and because Hemingway describes daily life in crisis so beautifully, I loved it and passed it along to Peter to read. It sat on the shelf of Montserrat for years (water stains on the upper binding attest to this), but Peter only half read it, losing interest. Even still, the book became part of our history and (I’m not sure if I can still find the quotation or if we made it up, but…) we started saying, “And I thee thou” copying Robert and Maria in the novel and meaning more than those little words might mean to anyone else.
Our argument about narrative pacing quickly dissipated along with our energy in the wee hours of the morning. The next day, I had a few hours before our guests would arrive for our first trip out on Gratitude. I was busy making iced tea, and snacks, but as I tidied up, I took a minute to flip through the book and immediately a few old forgotten photographs fell out. I could not believe it! What are the chances of me pulling that book down from the shelf in the first place and then having time to peruse it?? It really felt like a sign from above that Russ was here with us. I could not explain it any other way.
From right to left: Peter(at the tiller), Russ, Andy and Al all coming in from a sail on Montserrat circa 2007.
Later, as we waited for Peter to finish applying the new name to the stern, I passed the photo around to our pals.
We all agreed that some things cannot be explained. It just felt like magic to find these forgotten photos and to feel that Russ was with all of us for this day, for our first time out in his boat.
I drove the boat out of the slip—knowing that I had three of my trusted sailing buddies aboard to fend off any errors in judgement made it a lot easier!
The guys shook the cobwebs out of the mainsail and I had fun learning what it’s like to sail with a staysail.
According to tradition, we had to back-wind the sail and float backward at least one boat length. Al, held the staysail back-winded and the current carried us along down the Delaware. We opened two bottles of bubbly and shared a good bit with Gratitude, Neptune (or Poseidon as Roza insisted) and Aeolus and saved a bit for all of our amazing crew (except for two under-agers who had sparkling cider)!
We also had a great sail with lots of opportunities for tacking and jibing and mixing old friends with new.
What a great crew! Note Liz’s shirt: “Sail More (front) Work Less (back)” which matches my shirt from Union Island, SVG.
Peter & Cait having fun tacking together.
Our friend Matt could not make it out for our maiden voyage, but he saw us sailing under the bridge and ran away from his outside bar at la peg and down the Race Street Pier to capture Gratitude on her first sail past Philadelphia:
What an amazing day it was…THANKS to all for making it celebratory!