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Playing Well With Others

A little over a year ago in the pages of this magazine, I mentioned how in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, I’d taken up solo-sailing out on Boston Harbor. I was able to do so thanks to the hard work of the Boston Sailing Center, which succeeded in keeping its fleet of Solings (among other boats) up and running throughout. The result was some of the most satisfying sailing I can remember, right up there with when I used to take my old sky-blue Lightning out on Lake Michigan.

Mind you, I’m not one of those sailors looking to cross oceans all on his lonesome. I much prefer there be someone awake and on watch at all times, thank you very much! That said, there’s also nothing like tooling around for a few hours all by yourself aboard a well-found boat, especially on a body of water like Boston Harbor. What with the rocks, tides, currents and commercial traffic, there’s little if any chance of ever being bored. And heaven help you if you ever stop paying attention! Who needs shipmates? I would find myself thinking. Far better to go whenever, wherever and however you please, with no one to answer to but yourself! Sailing in a “bubble,” so to speak, was turning out to be the best kind of sailing of all.

Or so I thought.

With the pandemic starting to come under at least some semblance of control (thanks to the modern miracle that is today’s vaccines), I recently began not just sailing with others, but racing as well, and in the process have come to realize how much I actually missed it—not only the sailing, but hanging out with my shipmates. Turns out sailors aren’t just pretty interesting people, but there are few better places to discuss things like, oh, I don’t know, child rearing, the fall of the Roman empire or the ultimate reality of the universe than a sailboat. This is true whether it’s enjoying a few well-earned beers in the cockpit or doing your best to try and heel the boat to leeward in a drifter. If you’ve got nothing to say, simply watching the water go by in the company of others ain’t so bad either.

As for racing, I’m nobody’s idea of a rock star. But I’ve been reminded this past summer that if there’s anything more satisfying than navigating a narrow current-swept channel alone under sail, it’s mixing it up around the buoys. Win or lose, there’s no better way of testing your seamanship. Win or lose there’s nothing like the feeling of camaraderie that comes afterward. If you and your friends haven’t given this kind of sailing a try, I heartily recommend you do so—the sooner the better. It really is as exciting as it looks. Not only that, but as even the most cursory glance at our Racing is Back photo feature on makes clear, the “little” races out there can be just as thrilling as the big ones.

So go ahead, give it a try. If a misanthrope like yours truly can succeed at enjoying himself while doing his best to play well with others, so can you! 

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