The Mast-Head: Finding the Time

Something always comes up

For whatever reason, I did not get the old Sunfish rigged and onto the beach ready to sail until about halfway through August. Summer is like that, I told myself: Something always comes up.

One of the kids finally got me around to it. Evvy had taken sailing lessons in Sag Harbor and wanted some of her friends to come over to try our boat in the bay. The Sunfish, unnamed as most are, was given to me long ago by a friend who had won it at some corporate event. Initially, its sail carried a large Pepsi logo; I swapped it for a nondescript used one found on the internet.

Simple as Sunfishes are, I miss some of the boats I grew up with. My father was a big fan of catboats, and we had a series of them, mostly old and made of wood, in my youth. The last to go was a Beetle cat, a small version without seats, in which we sailed toward the end of his life. He was 47 when he died, and he had made it plain that he wanted me to learn as much as I could about the water, sailing, and the old ways as he had from his great-grandfather on the same waters when he was a boy.

The various catboats eventually went to new owners, one after the other. We donated the Beetle to a wooden boatbuilding school after its planks got too loose for me to deal with. On its last voyage, with my hand on the tiller, I had to take it into Hog Creek and tie up at a private dock as the water came in at a rate I could not keep up with using a clanking bilge pump. 

Fiberglass-hulled Sunfishes don’t usually have such problems. With age, though, even the industrial pop-outs begin to weather. Last weekend, sailing in the bay with two of the kids, the mainsheet block came loose. A rivet had worked through the thin-walled aluminum boom, leaving a U-shape bracket dangling. We were able to get back to the beach, though, and after looking around at the lumberyard, I found the needed parts.

Time, though, is another thing. The rivets are on a shelf. The rivet gun was on the floor of the passenger side of my truck last I saw it. I have other things to do, like mow the lawn and take the recyclables to the dump. It could be the middle of September before I get the boat back in the water. As I said, something always comes up.