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Great expectations

Is anyone else looking around right about now and wondering what the hell happened to summer? It’s over. Gone. A wrap. And yet I feel as if it should just be getting started.

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To be honest, I tend to feel this way following even the meatiest of summers. It’s my favorite season, and it’s never long enough or slow enough, but this year it was positively lean — and fleet. Despite my determination to have a boat in the water by Memorial Day, fate (and a faulty turbo) pushed it closer to the Fourth of July, which in my mind is summer’s halfway point. Still, I planned to make the most of what was left. Soundings editor-at-large Bill Sisson and I had a mantra we would throw at each other as we passed in the office hallway during a very hectic spring: This is going to be our summer! Bill was getting Swamp Yankee back in the water after a previous season lost to repairs, and I was excited about splashing a boat after several years ashore. We were determined. Sigh.

Work was just too busy, though I did spend quite a few weeks aboard at the dock — long enough to realize that my new boat is really too small to comfortably accommodate my family of two adults and two Jack Russell terriers for more than a long weekend.

And as you might expect with a 27-year-old boat — even one that has been very well maintained — things wear out. First I replaced the water pump. Then the A/C failed. An inspection hatch in the galley sole collapsed, and suddenly my left leg (cut and bruised but luckily not broken) was in the bilge. There have been some getting-to-know-you growing pains and the kind of unexpected expenses that, well, hurt.

A few weeks ago, when I was feeling blue about the summer that wasn’t, I wondered for a moment if I had bought the right boat. In my eagerness to get back on the water, had I acted too rashly? Should I have gone with something larger, closer to 36 feet? Should I have chosen something simpler, like a beat-up lobster boat with bare accommodations?

The moment passed. I ran back through my checklist of what I had sought in a boat. Matinicus ticked every box, and the checklist itself still held up.

I realized that three of the happiest hours of my summer were spent at anchor just off Essex, Connecticut, doing nothing more than relaxing on the stern and enjoying the breeze and the sound of water lapping on the hull.

The problem isn’t the boat — it’s how I am using (or not using) her. The cockpit is my favorite part of Matinicus, but I really have to be off the dock to take advantage of it. If I’m going to stay aboard often, I should be at a mooring where I can sit on my tiny private island and watch the cormorants, hear the slap of the chop, smell a little salt in the air.

Better yet, why live aboard at all? She is an ideal weekend cruiser. Why not take her to Maine, where I can work ashore for five days a week and spend the weekends aboard exploring the islands of Penobscot Bay on weekends? That would be perfect bliss.

Next year’s plan is realistic, and I have many months to make sure it happens. Anticipation is half the fun, but for now there is fall to embrace and still time to enjoy the boat. This weekend, I’m going to grab a mooring. And I will squeeze in a weekend cruise or two before I haul the boat for winter.

Sometimes we just expect too much — of our boats, of ourselves and, certainly, of our summers.

This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue.