In July we demonstrated that it is possible for two parents and two kids to have a successful cruise in a dinghy on Buzzard’s Bay. But we still didn’t know if one parent and one kid could handle a daysailer and all of the other exigencies of dinghy cruising and being four years old. So, in the spirit of experimentation, Lucia, Hoku, and I shoved off from Westport on Eclipse Monday and set sail for Lucia’s grandmother’s house at the northeast corner of Buzzard’s Bay. Our flexible itinerary included Cataumet and Martha’s Vineyard, and our forecast was excellent.
As the sea breeze freshened from the SW we rounded Gooseberry Neck and found ourselves on a run toward Cape Cod. Our compass broke, so we set the sails wing and wing for maximum speed and figured we’d recognize where we were when we hit the other side of the Bay. As the breeze continued to build I wondered if the solar eclipse would attenuate the sea breeze, driven as it is by sunshine on land. But Buzzard’s Bay doesn’t deal in meek sea breezes, and after some beautiful planing through shoals of blue fish and terns in a feeding melee, we hove to and reefed. As we surfed bigger and bigger waves up in the armpit of Buzzard’s, Lucia casually ate pistachios and threw shells over the lee rail, remarking, “i’m not sure I like surfing in a daysailer”. When the eclipse, hidden behind the southwest cirrus haze, made us cooler, we put on jackets. Passing close abeam of Cleveland’s ledge Lucia said “they don’t usually build houses in the middle of the ocean”. But the familiar site of Cleveland’s ledge signaled we were on course, and not long after Scraggy Neck loomed out of the haze. On Southwest ledge we finally jibed, and I glanced at my watch. We had covered the 24 miles from Gooseberry to Scraggy in exactly 4 hours, a record smashing run for a little Daysailer! With reverence for Uffa Fox (who designed the boat) and a little unnerved by our turn of speed, we doused the jib and jibed carefully under single-reefed main in to Red Brook Harbor. Lucia leapt up on deck and triumphantly guided us to a familiar beach, then ran up the trail to greet her grandmother and recount her accomplishments.
Our next sailing day was Wednesday, which dawned rainy and cloudy in a puffy 20 knot so’wester. We delayed leaving knowing that though the breeze was likely to build, at least the sun might come out. We set sail about noon, leaving Red Brook Harbor under full sail, with a plan to reef under the lee of Scraggy Neck. When we reached the last channel buoy, Lucia said, “ Let’s hove to and tuck in that reef!”, which we did. Twenty minutes later, as we emerged in to the full chaos of a wind-against-tide Buzzard’s Bay afternoon, we hove to again and took the jib down. Sailing close-hauled under single-reefed main we fetched West Falmouth, whereupon the waves were already less piqued, so we set the jib and reached on the port tack out to the shipping channel, before tacking over and fetching Quisset easily on the stbd tack. In Quisset we played on the beach and ate snacks until we had a fair current in Wood’s Hole. We set out through the Hole, quickly shaking out our reef so as to have plenty of power to fight the current. Lucia kept a sharp eye on the ferry traffic while I used the new tiller extension to manage the steering and the jib. Since we lacked daylight to reach over to the Vineyard on a dying sea breeze, we ducked in to Little Harbor and were graciously received at the Climate Foundation. It was Wednesday evening, so we caught the folk dancing in Woods Hole before dinner, and then Lucia and I were treated to several hours of intriguing math and physics talk around the dinner table. Several of the brilliant interns were young women who Lucia quickly warmed up to; she must have been dreaming of Fourier Transforms and solving differential equations as she fell asleep on the floor at our feet.
Thursday morning we barely beat the current in Vineyard Sound and rowed the last mile in to Lake Tashmoo. There we found kids on the beach who, having watched Moana, gave Lucia a hero’s welcome. As she showed her new friends around the boat I overheard Lucia explaining, “we always climb on deck on the high side of the boat.” I often wonder why adults think to simplify things for children. The truth is just the opposite; children excel at memorizing a million details, while it is adults who, worn down by the pounding seas of experience, require simplification. As daylight waned we went for a mellow sail around the lake with Karl and Patty. Then we found a nice shallow pond full of quahogs next to a magical trail that led straight up to Karl and Patty’s house and a shower, hot food, and a comfortable bed. What a cruise!
Friday the kids on the beach occupied us again, as did the launching and subsequent bailing of Karl’s beautiful plank-on-frame catboat, Vespera. Friday night we braved the throngs of tourists in Oak Bluffs in order to retrieve Emily, who arrived after work on the Fast Ferry (which Lucia can now identify from miles away). Lucia asked me to bounce her up and down so she wouldn’t fall asleep until she was in her mother’s arms.
Our late night Friday and the absolute hospitality of Karl and Patty did nothing to help us make it through Wood’s Hole Saturday morning, and with the Sound running East all day, and Wood’s Hole turning against us for six hours, we tied up again in Little Harbor for the day. Of all the places to be stuck for six hours, Wood’s Hole ain’t bad, and we visited the Aquarium and ate treats at Pie-In-The-Sky.
By 3pm we were through Woods Hole and close reaching across Buzzard’s Bay again in beautiful, typical, windy southwest weather. Reefing made steering more relaxing, and Lucia finally whined herself to sleep on the “life raft” (a boogie-board), giving Emily and I a chance to make good progress on the port tack. We hit the other side just to windward of Padanaram Harbor. Padanaram is not what I would consider a good dinghy cruising port; there is no secluded shallow pond, and there are houses and cars everywhere. As luck would have it, the bridge is still under construction, so we were able to beach the LS right by the bridge and enjoy a peaceful evening with no traffic and a cool, dry, land breeze.
Sunday morning we toodled back to Westport on a light easterly, conning the Daysailer in and out of the bites against the flood-tide, reaching here and there to avoid the current and keep the apparent wind in our sails. Our strategizing paid off, and we rode the very last of the flood in to Westport Harbor, just in time for a late lunch.
A four-year-old’s moods ebb and flow like the tide, sometimes enriched by what is going on around them, other times apparently independent of the circumstances. This can cause a parent to wonder if their child is really enjoying an experience. Lucia’s positive recollections of the cruise and enthusiasm for more sailing are encouragement to keep at it. And so, we brought our dingy-cruise to an ice-cream conclusion!