Sometimes the last, sometimes the best

Posted 10/5/23

Can you think of the last time you kissed your spouse; looked at your phone or scratched your head? Probably not. Those are just things you do and will keep on doing.

Nonetheless, when you think …

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Sometimes the last, sometimes the best


Can you think of the last time you kissed your spouse; looked at your phone or scratched your head? Probably not. Those are just things you do and will keep on doing.

Nonetheless, when you think about it at some point there will be a last time you do those things. Of course, if we spent our lives thinking that way we’d be ready for the nut house which would probably put us over the edge and that would be the last of the last times.

Instead, we approach those last times whether it is just for a season or for a lifetime with a form of event. It could be a graduation celebration or perhaps a “good riddance” party.

Then there are those who have a “bucket list.” I don’t know what to think of those who have a list of things they’d like to do before kicking the bucket. Among the bucket list possibilities I’ve heard are jumping out of a plane, visiting Antarctica, climbing Kilimanjaro, shooting an elk; conducting an orchestra, driving a race car in a race, kissing the Blarney Stone and riding a hot air balloon. I can see doing all of those things would be an experience except shooting the elk. Don’t sign me up for that.

What seems out of place is the list.

How is it that you come up with a list? What happens if that wish is totally impractical and unattainable, say flying an F -16 in combat? You could do that virtually and there are plenty of games that could give you the trill of simulated combat. But if your heart was really set on this and you knew it wasn’t going to happen, would you go through life knowing you could never complete your bucket list? Conversely, what of those who complete the list? Are they now ready to check out?

This came to mind, as forecasters said we might be in for a close encounter with Hurricane Lee.

Friends were concerned of the potential impact the storm could have on their safety and property. This was a storm to watch.

Yet life goes on.

Sailors are a diehard group even in the face of foul weather forecasts, especially when bragging rights are on the line. That was the case on race night the day before we felt the first effects of Hurricane Lee, which we now know turned out to be a non event.

This would be the last Thursday night race of the season. Conditions looked great, although my regular crew couldn’t make it and I had no easy way to get out to my boat moored offshore. John Cavanagh, who also loves racing and keeps his boat on a nearby mooring had the solution. With the tide rising he would pick me up from the seawall with his powerboat and one of his crew would sail with me.

All of this came together and soon the two of us were removing the boat cover and preparing to hoist the main sail. That was our first problem. No matter how hard we pulled the halyard, the sail was a foot short from the masthead. We would race with less than a full sail which is not in the formula for winning unless it’s blowing hard.

The course took us and ten other boats up the Providence River from Allen’s Ledge off Bullock’s Cove to a red nun near Pawtuxet and back. Despite our handicap we pretty much stuck with the pack until we headed back and the spinnaker, which was wound tight dropped into the water. By the time everything was straightened out, we were bringing up the rear of the fleet.

However, little did I know this would be one of those events you can’t ever forget.

By the time we drifted up to the mooring, the wind had died and the waters were silky black. We stripped the boat, not wanting to leave anything for Lee to send flying. John pulled his powerboat alongside taking all the gear. We piled aboard, too. When it came time to drop me off, the tide was ebbing. We could see the bottom in the boat’s bright light. He wouldn’t be able to reach the seawall. In fact, he wouldn’t be able to get within 300 feet of shore.

“This looks good,” I said. John put the engine in idle and when we slowed I jumped in. The water was up to my waist. It was surprisingly warm. This was going to be easy, or so I thought. Not so.

Walking in waist deep water is slow work, but I wasn’t in a rush. John left to speed back to Bullock’s Cove in East Providence. I was on my own.

While I hadn’t left any lights on, I knew where I was going. This was a world I hadn’t experienced. I’ve sailed and been on the water at night many times. Never have I walked ashore in the dark at the end of the sailing season. I went by feel until I realized I had many thousands of companions. I had company, plankton whose florescence left a wave of twinkling stars in my trail and glowed around my legs. I looked up. The stars were there, and a passing jet, too. I was one with the sky and the sea. There was no need to rush.

If you have a bucket list add this with the northern lights.

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