Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sail on Sailor

Ed Pasternack lives five houses from me and has a pretty nice boat, named after his first wife, Meredith (Its been rumored that the boat had something to do with the break-up of his other two marriages). Meredith is a sailboat with a teak deck that he refinished himself. It sits on a trailer in his backyard, and while some of his neighbors complain, I think his boat is a thing to behold. More than one neighbor has said that Ed and I are two peas in a pod, so I often make an effort to talk with him, just to see if the theory has any credence.

The other day, while we were discussing the properties of a good dip to compliment Lays Classic potato chips, the only chip Ed and I feel worthy of dipping, he asked me if I wanted to go night sailing. He said that's the best time; it's peaceful and relaxing to gaze up at the stars without anybody snooping. I was a little apprehensive and asked if it was dangerous, sailing in the dark, but he reassured me that a more seaworthy craft than Meredith has never been built, and he's had over forty years experience at the rudder. So I agreed, and he said to be at his house by sundown.

I arrived at Ed's door, with some beverages in tow, just as it was getting dark. I also packed my wallet in a waterproof plastic bag. Despite Ed's experience, I'd heard that Lake Michigan can be unpredictable, and I didn't want anyone confusing the bodies, should there be a mishap and days later we happen to wash up on shore together.

Ed greeted me with an enthusiastic hello and a pat on the back and motioned me towards his backyard. He retreated back into the house for a minute and emerged with a flashlight and a yachting cap. "Can't sail without my lucky skipper's hat. This cap has never failed to bring me home safe."

There was a stepladder against the sailboat's hull, and Ed quickly galloped up the steps and climbed aboard the boat. Then he called out, "Come on buddy, get aboard; let's shove off!" Once on board, I handed Ed the beverages, and he said, "Put 'em in the galley below (he knew all the nautical terms). There's ice and chips down there. And give me a hand with the mast." Once the mast was raised, he unfurled the sail. "No need for the jib just yet. Wind might kick up and tip us." He handed me a rope, "Here, tie this off to the starboard cleat (again with the nautical lingo). It'll keep the boom from knocking our heads off."

Ed's cautious prediction was right, a wind did kick up, and he faced it with arms outspread, eyes closed and said, "Feel that warm summer wind. Nothing better than to be out sailing on a night like this." He got busy, threading various ropes through spinning pulleys and tying them one place and another.

The silhouettes of Ed's bushes and his garage loomed just a few feet from us, but I'm pretty sure, once we "got under way," they were invisible to Ed. It was apparent, in Ed's mind, that water was an unnecessary ingredient to boating.

"Better turn on the running lights. Coast Guard regs," he said while flipping a switch, energizing some red and green lights at the bow and stern and one at the top of the mast. Even though the sail was peppered with a thousand holes, allowing the wind to pass straight through, Ed kept a sharp eye on it. He took his place at the rudder and said, "Usually sail solo, but it's good to have a mate." At that, I handed him a beer. It was the least a mate could do.

I brought out the chips and dip, and for awhile, except for the crunching of chips, we "sailed" in silence. Ed couldn't have been a more gracious captain. He even offered me a turn at the rudder and cautioned me to keep it on a straight course (which meant pointed towards Ed's house).

Soon it began to rain and Ed opened a hatch labeled "foul weather gear." "These'll keep the weather out," he said while handing me a yellow, hooded slicker. The rain pounded on the deck, making it difficult to hear one another. "Looks like a real squall!" He shouted.

The chips quickly became a soggy mess, so I yelled, "Why don't we continue this in my basement where it's dry!"
"There's no boat in your basement!" he replied.
He had a point, so we sat in the rain for about a half hour before I said, "Ed, I think I'm going home." I began to stand up, and he motioned me back to my seat.
"Wait till I pull up to this dock!" And he swung the rudder hard to the left, waited about thirty seconds, and yelled, "OK, make a jump for the pier!"
While climbing down the ladder, I asked, "Aren't you coming?"
"No, I've got to bring the boat back to the harbour!"
So I waved good-bye, and while closing the gate, I could see Ed hunched over the rudder, squinting straight ahead through the driving rain, determined to bring Meredith home.

While it may be that Ed and I are two peas in a pod, I'd like to think I would have had enough common sense to store the chips in a water-tight container, especially with the unpredictable sailing conditions on our block.