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Solace in the sea

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It was a tough winter. The weather gods went easy on us in the Northeast, but my two Jack Russell terriers — companions on many nautical and other adventures in the last 15 years — passed away within three months of each other.

It’s possible I am taking it harder than I should, but we were a pack, and truth be told, I liked those two scruffy characters more than most of the people I’ve ever met. They were funny, affectionate, quirky, smart and loyal. Their absence is keenly felt in our childless household, and we are going to be sad for some time.

Another stressor that’s also wearing on the spirit is our current political climate. No matter which camp you tend to favor, the endless rancor and combativeness between the major parties is exhausting and distressing. Our government is supposed to better serve its people, and I don’t think anyone is helped by this 24-hour news cycle of rage and hostility. Tuning it out while remaining an engaged citizen is a really tough balancing act — one we shouldn’t have to perform to accommodate our elected officials’ constant bickering.

Yesterday, though, I looked out the office window at the greening landscape, heard a chorus of birdsong and contemplated my first trip of the year to the island. “Look deep into nature,” said Albert Einstein, “and then you will understand everything better.” Is there more astute advice for this day and age?

We’re planning to spend more time in Maine this year, and though I’ve been saving my money for bigger schemes — and maybe a Pulsifer Hampton or Marshall 22 — I find myself with a sudden case of skiff fever.

A bit of digging has turned up a sweet-looking West Pointer 18 — one of the last built by Alton Wallace, who produced more than 200 of these boats from a design that originated with Amos Wallace, his father.  She has a vee bottom forward, flattening aft, which should make her ideal around the rocks and ledges of island-filled Penobscot Bay. A 2-stroke Evinrude outboard from 2000, recently overhauled, is said to run well. We shall see.

It’s an impulsive turn of events, but I like to think this urgency is life-affirming, too. What better medicine is there than to leave a mooring astern and head past the breakers on a gorgeous day? Here is a modest splurge that will bring me months of joy each year. In fact, it feels more like a necessity than a luxury.

Oh, there’s no doubt I’ll continue to pine for other boats, but what could better lift my spirits than more time on the water right now? This seems like a fine way to get there fast: She’s wooden, classic, easy to launch and haul, (reasonably) simple to maintain … and her lines are awfully pretty.

Of course, someone may beat me to the finish line. Or she may be less solid than billed. But there are other skiffs, and the fuse is lit.

Hooray!

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This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue.

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