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The Mistress I Don’t Mind

“Bad news, honey,” my husband, Leif, told me, “We own a sailboat.” That’s how I found out about the Cape Dory Typhoon Weekender.

“Bad news, honey,” my husband, Leif, told me, “We own a sailboat.” That’s how I found out about the Cape Dory Typhoon Weekender.

Leif had made a low-ball bid on an eBay auction, left town for Thanksgiving, and returned to learn he’d won. We now owned a 1974 sailboat, three states away, in the middle of winter. I couldn’t wait to see how he’d work his way out of this one.

This is not the first watercraft my husband has sprung on me. Five years ago, there was the secret kayak. It was delivered to his office and lay hidden in the basement for a few weeks before he was finally overcome with guilt and confessed. She was a pretty, taut, dark red folding kayak. I told him she was the kind of mistress I didn’t mind him keeping, and that one day I might even take her out for a spin myself.

The Cape Dory, on the other hand, posed an immediate logistical challenge. How could we get it home to Minnesota—in December no less—without a heavy towing vehicle?

Luckily, Jerry the eBay seller, motivated by his girlfriend’s ultimatum to thin out his fleet of seven sailboats, cheerfully offered to deliver the boat himself. He even brought along his cross-country skis so he could enjoy the snow while he was here, and he oversaw the inaugural rigging of the Cape Dory via the iPhone photos we emailed to him the following spring.

I’d been skeptical, and Leif had been lucky. We had the boat. We had it rigged. Now what?

“Floating family slumber party!” That’s how Leif sold the vision of taking our two daughters on an overnight trip and sleeping all four of us in the tiny V-berth in the Weekender’s cuddy cabin. The girls, who were only just short enough to make this plausible, were thrilled at the prospect of an adventure. But I found myself having flashbacks to when I was 10 and my father bought a pop-up camper. For years I’d had similar delusions of slumber parties, but he never once opened the thing up, and eventually ended up selling it off again. Would the Cape Dory be different?

While the girls and I mulled over the possibilities, Leif and his writer-friend Michael took the Cape Dory on her maiden voyage to a regatta on the Lake of the Woods up on the Canadian border. Ever the entertainer, Michael regaled a national audience with his stories of 45-knot squalls that came out of nowhere, a fur of mosquitoes that descended on them at nightfall, and the way Leif’s wife had hummed the theme song to “Gilligan’s Island” as they prepared for the trip.

Reading Michael’s stories from the comfort of home, I began warming up to the idea of the Cape Dory. Leif, on the other hand, returned from his weekend away brimming with a renewed sense of appreciation for me. After sharing the boat’s very small cabin with another human being for a long period of time, somehow all of my bad traits had vanished! He loved my sense of humor! He found me fun and easygoing! Perhaps this would become another mistress I didn’t mind.

A few years ago, when my husband took to reading books like Alone at Sea at family events, I might have worried our marriage was in trouble. But I have since come to see the escape of sailing as the perfect way to resolve a mid-life crisis. It’s a chance to get away, alone or together, and an opportunity to plan adventures and solve problems. And at the end of the day, what’s not to love about a pretty little Cape Dory skimming across a Minnesota lake on a sunny day? I’m already dreaming about cozying up in the belly of the Dory next summer, falling asleep to the lullaby of the loons and waves, surrounded by the people I love.

Family slumber parties, here we come.

Photo by Michael Tortorello

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