Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Evanston: in praise of Everyman

        Sailors who write to me almost invariably include a line to the effect that of course they are not comparing their sailing to mine.  They don’t need to.  It is not a competition.  At least not on my part.  I only compete with time and chance and myself.  And I have deep admiration for the sailing many of you do.  
        I’ve long been meaning to say that, and the photo above, taken by my friend Steve Earley of himself last Monday standing, with cane, four days after hip replacement surgery, gazing fondly and longingly at the Pathfinder yawl, SPARTINA, he and his father built, provides a good reason.  That is us all looking at our boats and longing to be sailing.
        I could mention other sailors, but I would almost certainly leave someone out, so let Steve stand as Everyman.  Perhaps more normal than I, but not ordinary.  Extraordinary in dedication and passion.  I love being on boats and on the water.  I love sailing.  But I don’t love those things more than Steve does.  Nor more than many of you do.
        Steve wrote to me recently:
        I think when people see me come off SPARTINA at a dock in a little harbor, they see a different person than the one they would find elsewhere.  One time on a cold windy day in Chestertown, with SPARTINA tied up blocks away, I came around the corner to see a sailor with the collar of his foul weather jacket pulled tight, long-billed hat set slightly askew, glasses tied in place by a piece of string.  My first reaction was that of envy for a sailor living the life.  My second reaction was astonishment - it was me reflected in a shop window.  That's the person I want to be, and I can only find that person on, around or near the water.   
        As would any sailor, Steve planned his hip replacement for the off season.  In his home waters around Norfolk, Virginia that is shorter than it would be in Chicago.  Excluding ice boats.  
        I wish Steve a rapid recovery and the winds of Spring on his skin and in SPARTINA’s sails.