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With time to kill and nowhere to go

Sailor and author Frank Cowper once said, to enjoy sailing, you have to have “plenty of time and not really wish to get anywhere particular.”

If that’s true, then these two sailors certainly seem to be enjoying themselves, gliding along on a sunset cruise.

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(click here to see enlarged photo)

Boat and crew seem at one with the forces of nature — winds, waves, tides and currents — that have propelled sailboats for millennia. Their handy-looking, hard-chined daysailer is perfectly balanced to catch the last light breeze of the day, rippling the glowing waters. You can sense the light touch on mainsheet and tiller — and imagine, perhaps, a murmured conversation between friends. It’s a timeless, small-craft moment capturing what Thomas Wolfe called the “calm endlessness of the evening sea.”

The picture’s composition is impressive, too. With the big sky, the dramatic clouds and the contrasts of light and dark, this moody composition could easily be a Rosenfeld, a photograph from the camera and dark rooms of legendary Stanley Rosenfeld or his son, Morris. Known today for their J/Class and 12 Meter America’s Cup photography, the family’s work virtually defined an entire age of yachting through the mid-1900s.

In reality, it’s a shot taken by an unknown photographer in 1946, on assignment on Ortega Bay in Jacksonville, Fla., for the state’s Chamber of Commerce, part of a project to promote attractions to a postwar populace seeking to get back to normal lives.

This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue.

More from this issue

* Seems like just yesterday

* Photo contest finalists

* An eye on the Northwest Passage