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Committed to memory

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I flew to Providence, Rhode Island, last week, on my way to a meeting. It was a beautiful morning, and as we descended from cruising altitude I could clearly see Jamestown to starboard. Dutch Harbor Boat Yard was peppered with boats, in full summer mode. I was surprised to feel my eyes welling.

Five years ago I spent the summer there aboard Bossanova, and the very best weekend of many wonderful ones was when our friend (she’s family, really) Martine came for a visit. We rented kayaks and paddled through the Narrow River to Narragansett Bay, went to Beavertail Light with the dogs, swam off the stern, ate dinner and lingered with wine under a velvety sky studded with stars. There was a lot of laughter, as there always is with Martine, but these were an especially memorable few days — the kind that make you look around and think, Now. Now is the perfect moment. Now is as good as it gets.

We feel these moments acutely, of course, because we know that time marches on, routines prevail, things change and life will hand us some inescapably crappy moments, too. Good memories are always wonderful company, but they are survival suits in life’s storms.

During the spring that followed the perfect summer, Bossanova was hauled for a routine bottom job and found to have serious galvanic corrosion. That season aboard was the last one I’d have with my little ship, and the value of those spectacular summer memories multiplied by a thousand.

As I watched Dutch Harbor recede from 10,000 feet, their value soared again. We had just learned that Martine is seriously ill, and though I would give anything to turn back the clock and return to that carefree weekend, I accept that that’s what memories are for.

There is good news: Bossanova has found a new owner. He’s going to get her back in shape, give her a purpose, and someone else will love her as I have, which is a beautiful thing. It was high time I let her go, and I couldn’t be happier with the home she’s found.

Also, Martine has recovered from major surgery faster than I’d get over a hangnail. I am concentrating on that as an omen for things to come and keeping good memories close.

I wrote a book (The Cure For Anything Is Saltwater, HarperCollins) about my early adventures with Bossanova, and its last paragraph has been rattling around my brain:

I owe my peace to Bossanova — a small steel ship, but also a magic carpet. The joy I felt standing on her bow I will always be able to summon at will, as though I am still right there with the breeze in my hair and the sun on my face. I know now that this moment — like every moment — is within me: still real, very alive, the magnificent now that is also the invisible doorway to whatever comes next.

Let’s hope there will be many more summers and other boats for all of us. And in the meantime, let’s not miss the chance that every day supplies to stockpile great memories.

This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue.