Random vacation thoughts: July 2009

I decided to take the last week of this month off to recharge some batteries and sooth my stressed nerves. Ishmael’s remedy for burn-out applies here:

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.”

New Boat

This is the first week of full use of the Bald Eagle Too – a 1985 Endeavour 33′ sloop – that I gained use of last fall when my brother’s business partner and childhood friend, David Rowe, decided to sign the boat over to me rather than consign it to a charity auction. The boat had been beloved by his dad, Brian Rowe, a close friend of my late father’s, and when Brian passed away a few years ago the boat began to sit, out of the water, unused. So … one day last November, while I worked in my home office, I heard a commotion out of Main Street, heard the back-up horn of a large truck, and said, “Shit. It must trash day!”

It was John Peck, owner of the boatyard of the same name, and master at yacht haulage, delivering the Bald Eagle to my yard for winter storage next to the garage.

I spent the winter crawling around inside, reading all I could on 12 volt electrical systems, marine diesel engines; the sort of things that I haven’t messed around with since I delivered sailboats up and down the East coast in the early 1980s. An adolescence spent on the water, particularly as a deckhand on the Nantucket ferries, inculcated me with a respect for the maritime version of Murphy’s Law, but I took some comfort in knowing the was well-loved and owned by an engineer.

I was ready to launch in April, but mooring regulations and the incredibly impossible situation of getting a new mooring in Cotuit Bay had me stymied. I filed a “change of vessel” request with the town’s mooring officer to upgrade a 75-lb. mooring for a 14′ Cotuit Skiff into a 500-lb. mooring for a 33-foot sloop. The issue wasn’t the permit. It was space. And I had to wait until the mooring field filled in until the mooring officer could find me a spot.

Finally, after the Fourth of July, my polite pressure paid off and I was given permission to launch. I broke out the pressure water, blasted the decks, and John Peck returned to pick her up and launch her at Prince’s Cove in Marstons Mills. Fisher and I used the Tashmoo (my outboard skiff) as a tugboat, and pushed her, unrigged, through the Mills River and North Bay to a temporary mooring in Cotuit. The following week Oyster Harbor Marine, the boatyard in Osterville, took her in tow, stepped the 50-foot mast with a crane, topped off the diesel, re-commissioned the engine, and by the middle of the month I was underway.

The best part was taking David and my brother out for a maiden voyage and getting the insider’s guide to how she sails. That led, of course, to the impulsive decision to quickly take some vacation. Now I take the Cotuit launch out to the mooring field, and spend my day tinkering away, looking at the boat as a triage project. For example. First thing before slipping a mooring is the man-overboard situation. The decks are at least three, maybe four feet above the water. How do you get a person back into the boat? The swim ladder on the transom? A life ring? What if that person is a fat-whale like me and the only person who can haul me back aboard is my poor wife? From there the triage leads to fire extinguishers, radios, life jackets.

All clichés about money and boats can be inserted here.


I was scoring the Cotuit Kettleers-Chatham Anglers game last night at Lowell Park and became confused by a mysterious hit that was showing on the scoreboard but not on my card. The couple sitting behind me were obviously seriously into the game – from what I could overhear – and the woman seemed to be scoring, but freehand, without a card. I asked her to help me clarify the play – she held up her hand, she needed to see the next pitch (an obvious sign of a good scorer is undivided attention) and she told me where the hit came from. I asked her if she was a parent of a player, and indeed, she and her husband were there from Kentucky to see their son, Zach Cox, play. Cox won the MVP in the Cape League all-star game last week at Fenway for his two RBIs and last night he had three hits and an RBI as Cotuit moved into second place in the League’s western division going into the final stretch. Good thing earlier, when Reverend Jeremy came by to tell me about his pilgrimage to Cooperstown for Jim Rice’s induction to the Hall of Fame that I answered “Cox” when he asked me if I had a particular favorite on the team.


Vacation is about the reading, and I’ve loaded the Kindle up with some weird stuff. First, I’ve never really worked my way through Dickens, and lo and behold, one can score some massive free stuff from Amazon. So I downloaded the complete works of Dickens and am now working my way through it in chronological order, beginning with the Pickwick Papers.

Having a restless need to jump around, I am immersed in The Economist and New Yorker, and also reading the legendary How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This is one of the original self-help books. The ones our grandfather’s read in the 1930s and 40s along with Rev. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. Given that Carnegie was arguably one of the greatest pop cultural influences of the pre-war generation, I figured what the hell. Tedious going, but refreshingly American in its optimism and emphasis on “hail fellow, well met.”

Based on the Willam T. Vollmann profile in this morning’s NYT, I ordered Europe Central for the Kindle. Also waiting in the wings, Paranoia by Yale classmate Joseph Finder, The Baseball Economist by J.C. Bradbury, and The Food of a Younger Land, by Mark Kurlansky (Cod, Salt)


Lance Armstrong is the man. His podium showing and his performance on Mount Ventoux was stunning. He makes me miss the bike in a big way.

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