Don’t rush an end to summer

Posted 9/21/22

Summer ended too quickly.

At least that’s the way it seems to me. It was only yesterday, or was that three weeks ago, that yellow buses returned to their morning commute and there was that …

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Don’t rush an end to summer


Summer ended too quickly.

At least that’s the way it seems to me. It was only yesterday, or was that three weeks ago, that yellow buses returned to their morning commute and there was that sense that the page was turning and soon the trees would color and we would swing into a new set of routines.

Don’t get me wrong, I love fall, but we were cheated on summer. Or were we?

It wasn’t a wash out. In fact, it got to the point where I actually heard people saying they could use a break from the sunny weather and wished for a rainy day. And we weren’t threatened by hurricanes. That was nice and hopefully the trend will carry through the rest of the hurricane season. 

Indeed, we were cooked for a couple of weeks with a string of 90 plus days. Yet compared to the summer before and the summer before that, this was good. We got out. We took off our masks. We attended events – Gaspee Days brought the community together and who could forget the start of the Great Race at Rocky Point? Too bad the race won’t be back for some time.

It was a race of another kind that defined summer was coming to an end. It was the Sail for Hope, an around Jamestown Island race that starts and ends off Rose Island in Newport. Hosted by Sail Newport, the regatta benefited the World Central Kitchen for Ukraine, Save the Children’s Emergency Fund and Sail Newport’s new Marine Exploration Program for Thompson Middle School.

The regatta seemed like a fitting way to close out the season, a day on the water with a bunch of guys who share the joy of sailing and cracking open the beers after crossing the finish line. Until then, it’s serious stuff like tactics, trimming sails for the maximum speed, flying a spinnaker and breaking out the sandwiches, cookies and fruit when there is a lull in the action. There were a lot of lulls on Sunday, Sept. 10, so we did a good amount of nibbling and ribbing one another.

John Cavanagh, who now owns the boat I had for more than 15 years before chaffing through its mooring line in a nor’easter and ending up with a pounding on my seawall, didn’t hesitate on signing us on. He’s done a beautiful job of restoring the boat and adding amenities – such as new winches, lines, blocks and sails – that make it fun to race. Some of John’s regulars – Richard, Ian and Brad – and longtime sail companion Claude Bergeron and I rounded out the crew.

John was pumped for the event. He proclaimed the boat would have the cleanest bottom in the fleet that was expected to number 75. In addition, with the forecast of a southwest wind, he’d calculated at what point we would set spinnaker.

But Mother Nature is fickle. The glassy bay offered little promise of wind as we slipped the mooring and motored to Newport expecting to find a forest of masts at the rendezvous off Rose Island.  Our timing was perfect. The first signal was at 11 and our division was to have started at 11:20. We arrived on time. A few boats under power circled by the committee boat, but there was nothing like 75 competitors. The race had been delayed by an hour and the course shortened to the red and green buoy at the end of Prudence Island and return to the start.

From the beginning, it was test of tide and a guess where to find a puff of wind. When the wind found us, John would delightedly read off our speed as it climbed from 2 knots to 2.3 and then apex at 2.9. We actually hit 5 at one point. The endurance test came as we approached the final half mile to the finish.

The tide was carrying us ever so slightly as we passed under the Pell Bridge. There couldn’t have been more than 5 knots of wind, so there was forward momentum but ever so little.  All the more troubling the waters ahead were flat with no sign of wind.

We had to leave the red bell off Rose Island to our port and from there head to the finish line.

 For every foot gained, we slipped one sideways. Within two boat lengths of the bell, it became apparent we weren’t going to make it. John tacked and we started sailing away from the mark. The boat behind us saw what had happened and gave the mark a wide berth. Meanwhile, we inched further and further away. John asked for advice on when to tack. I was willing to give it a shot. Claude knows I like taking risks and said to wait. It looked like whatever wind we had would die completely. If that happened we could end up in irons without steerage.

John tacked and we were pointed in the direction of the bell. Inch by inch we moved forward and with every centimeter it became clear if we were going to make it, it would be close. In the distance, off Fort Adams, sailboats were once again moving. Wind was filling in from the southwest, but it would be another ten minutes before reaching us. We were within 50 feet of rounding the bell when a power boat under full throttle headed at us. It swept by leaving a rolling wake.

“Prepare to fend off,” yelled John from the helm. We were being pushed into the bell. Ian leaned over the bow, hand out stretched and the rest of us stood by on the port side of the boat. We didn’t hit the bell, but we had to fall off and tack again. Helpless, we watched more of the fleet drift past.

Finally, the wind reached us. We left our red mimesis in our wake and headed for the finish. 

“2.3,” said John. We were speeding. We crossed the finish line and the committee boat sounded a horn.  It wasn’t the most fitting way to bring down the curtain on summer. But then there was plenty of beer for the 11-mile trip up the bay.

 I’d do it again if it meant some more summer.

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