When we bought Galactic, our 45-foot cutter, it came with an 8-foot sailing dinghy that we called Little Dipper. During two crossings of the Pacific, that dinghy took our sons Elias and Eric zipping over turquoise water to pristine beaches and taught them how sailing could be a way to explore the world. And for Elias, who sailed Little Dipper from the age of 4 to 8, it was also the vehicle for a blossoming independence as he made the transition from passenger to captain of his own solo voyages.
For years, we were in the habit of hanging our dinghies on halyards to make sure they didn't go walkabout in the dark. But during our haulout in Chile, I noticed how scratched the topsides had become where the dinghy slid up and down, and I started leaving the dinghy in the water at night. And so one morning arrived, in the beautiful anchorage of Estero Pailad, on Isla Grande de Chiloe, when we went on deck and found only a neatly cut painter where Little Dipper had been.