Yesterday we took the tender to Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard, another of these seaside resort towns which easily become monotonous: the clam shack, the sailing boats and power boats tied to buoys, the little rowboats with motors skittering around. An attempt to walk left us on a trail through a bog and the deep, welcome shade of an oak forest, but in a matter of minutes, we were out on a paved road and that was the end of the “hike.”
Which was really of no importance. What mattered so much to me was to sail in a brisk wind in a Pico, a tiny boat with a mainsail, a jib, a rudder, a steering arm, and not much more; my son Barry is an experienced sailor, knowing when to tack and how to get out of the way of the big power boats muscling their way across the harbor. I managed the little job.
There is something not quite controllable about these tiny sailboats, alone on a giant body of water; the sails flap loud as we come about, cold salt water washes over us, and the wind is strong and exhilarating.
Presently we fly back to the side of the ship and then there is the strong excitement of swimming in the swift ocean current that surges by the hull of the Arabella.
Anchored near us yesterday, a great black three-master, a steel-hulled copy of an eighteenth-century privateer, was being used as a training ship for a group of teenagers. They were up in the rigging, twenty feet above the deck, furling and tying down the great sails, then, with a whoop, jumping into the water. Many of those climbing the rigging and jumping were girls.
The athleticism of so many young women today, trained in high schools after Title 9 mandated equal opportunities for young women and young men, is surely one of the reasons there are now real and vital friendships between the genders that are not romances. It’s impossible to imagine these female “studs,” as one of the crew called his girls-who-are-friends, succumbing to the despair of a wealthy middle-aged philanthropist, creator of major not-for-profits in her home city, who told her friend that her life was empty without a man.
Many in my generation worked long and hard for this radical change, now incorporated in “things as they are,” without remark or surprise. This great ship, named as so many are for a woman, the Arabella, is mark and monument to that radical change.
Now we are rolling…
I leave her with regret, determined to find my way to another sailing adventure.