A decade has passed since I last toured the U.S. Naval Academy's Gallery of Ships, once housed in a somewhat spooky, antiquated museum setting. Priceless, centuries-old scale miniatures of Royal Navy warships from the 17th and 18th centuries loomed ghostly in a dim, shadowy interior where visitors could marvel at remarkable masterpieces of exacting craftsmanship. Today, longer visits are in order, since the redesigned gallery reopened in a modern, interpretive setting in old Preble Hall.
As I assembled these words during Thanksgiving week, I was still sailing. Air temperatures were in the 50s and even 60s, but it was definitely time to put sailing aside and get on with the business of winter. Fortunately my older sailboat keeps me busy year-round as my one and only hobby in-season and off, and I actually welcome being lured into the cozy interior of the cabin to work on projects in the relative warmth provided by a portable electric heater.
I have developed a close relationship with the Spa Creek Drawbridge in Annapolis and regard it as "my" bridge because I have gone through it hundreds of times in 40 years. Some bridge tenders, such as Rich Leger, are so used to seeing my small sailboat approach that they will open without a formal request. I always shout a loud "Thank you!" when going through, and Rich issues an all-clear hello in return with two toots from the control center.
I have managed to survive a midlife crisis or two, but falling into a demanding maritime midlife crisis can pose personal challenges for the most committed boatman. Men in their mid-30s and into their 40s can be especially vulnerable to such whimsical changes in lifestyle, especially when the object of affection is a traditional Chesapeake Bay watercraft.
Daysailing alone out of Annapolis is a seasonal ritual for me, but I find myself watching other boaters and that creates a dilemma. Years ago, I developed a horrible habit of knocking sailors aloud for one infraction or another that bothered me. Of course, whatever the offending skipper was doing was absolutely none of my business, and my misdeeds eventually led me to regret my obnoxious behavior. So, mea culpa. I have since learned to follow the code of MYOB (mind your own business).
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Jack has been cruising Chesapeake Bay and writing about the region for more than 25 years. His critically acclaimed book, "Maryland's Vanishing Lives," was published by Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University Press and is now in its second printing. Before joining Soundings, Jack was a feature writer at the Washington (D.C.) Star for nearly 20 years and a senior editor at Chesapeake Bay magazine from 1995 to 1998. His monthly Bay Tripper column focuses on the Chesapeake.