Of Lights and Hooks

Even on an uneventful trip, Mark Pillsbury sees the fates challenged at a whole new level. Editor's Log from our October 2011 issue.

Editor's Log Oct 2011

Mark Pillsbury

On this year’s busman’s holiday, we took a week and sailed from Wickford, Rhode Island, out to Nantucket. Luck sailed with us and the trip, for the record, was delightfully uneventful, as in nothing significant broke and no aids to navigation were neglected. The wind gusted only briefly one afternooninto the high teens, but still there was enough of it the remainder of the time that we added just a hand full more hours of wear and tear to the engine. Better yet, two of our longer sailing days were mercifully cloudy in what turned out to be an otherwise delightfully hot and sunny spell. Three nights we anchored, and on one of the nights when we picked up a mooring, no one ever came to collect the fee. Dinner that evening ashore—the only one of our trip, it turns out—was theoretically a freebie. So, not even a gnarly sea story about being overcharged for a so-so burger.

Still, though, I did return to work with something to write about. On our outbound leg, though it was late afternoon, we stopped in Cuttyhunk and found an open mooring in the usually overcrowded harbor. That evening, an easterly filled in and we had a prime seat for a spectacularly colorful sunset over Church’s Beach. Then, just down the row of moorings from us, the owner of a large catamaran at dusk turned on his running lights—reminiscent of a neighbor who used to have red and green lights to either side of his front door. I love the nautical theme, though it seems confusing in a mooring field.

Another evening, in Edgartown, the owner of a sailboat moored nearby kind of got it right when he left his steaming light on until dawn. His heart was in the right place, though confused. And the message he sent made about as much sense as the sailor who came motoring slowly down the channel well after dark with both his steaming and anchor lights lit, though no running lights on.

My personal favorite tempt of fate, though, occurred near the start of our trip, in Newport. Though it was a weekend afternoon, the anchorage was remarkably un-crowded, so picking a spot was not much of a challenge. Still, later in the day a very correct looking couple aboard what looked to be a lavishly maintained Bristol 35 passed over several decent size holes and chose to drop their hook in a fairly small opening just off to the side of us. Somehow, they didn’t notice that as the breeze picked up a little it blew them backward and fairly close to a small boat that by all appearances had been there for a while.

Later, as the wind clocked around and all the boats swung with it, theirs and the smaller boat became quite intimate. In fact, I believe they touched. The couple was soon on the foredeck, heatedly gesturing and discussing the situation. Next thing we knew, the impeccably dressed skipper was in his very varnished dinghy and at our rail. I was afraid he was going to complain that we'd somehow dragged forward toward him. Instead, he asked what we knew about his too-close neighbor ahead. Apparently he'd climbed aboard the modest little sloop and was miffed, yes, miffed I tell you, by the condition of the fellow's ground tackle.
He was apparently miffed, too, when I declined to help him move the little boat he'd anchored too close to. He motored off in a huff and loudly ordered his wife to help him rearrange the anchorage.

Creative lighting while at sea is annoying, but climbing onto someone else’s boat, weighing anchor, and dragging it out of the way, now that’s challenging the fates at a whole new level.