MERMAIDS OFF MANHATTAN PIER
All the trees profitably harvested each day about the planet could not come close to providing the paper necessary to document adequately all the reasons why I, your father, am thankful that you would be and are my daughters.
Possessing a concerned-citizen's legitimate concern for the depleting tree population, I would nevertheless like to reminisce for just a moment about one somewhat surreal and (to my mind) almost magical afternoon when we all finally managed to get together again for a sail. It was an afternoon for which I will be ever grateful. May these words partially replace the photographs that were destined not to be taken. It is in our minds that the day is to be remembered.
With all hands aboard the chartered good ship Tutu J and with some Mickeys' sandwiches, drinks and chips properly stowed below, we left the slip. The sun had burned its way through the midmorning fog and it appeared to be a great day for a sail. So it was.
After a stop at the fuel dock for some ice (practically a tradition!), we headed back into the outer harbor and raised the Mainsail and unfurled the Genoa. Aboard the ship-shape Catalina 270 were Heidi, Holly, Heather, Trey (whose age can be counted on one hand) and Grampa Rob (whose age is identical with his favorite running number honoring his grade school, PS# 69) -- sailors, one and all.
All the post-puberty crew knew the difference between a sheet and a bedroll, were quite comfortable in the head, the galley, the reefer (where the cold beer usually was), the forepeak (where Toesies can be played by both lovers and other good friends) and the cockpit (where you knew you were sailing). That Trey could and would demonstrate his knowledge of good seamanship was yet to be learned.
Out King Harbor's entrance, beyond the end of the breakwater and the guano breeze, with Holly at the helm, it will be recalled we respectfully passed by and said "Hello" to the seals on and swimming about the entrance buoy. After heading out to sea for a short leg, we tacked and settled in for a comfortable sail up the coast from King Harbor to Manhattan Beach and back.
That magical moment when the engine is finally turned off and the sails quietly begin to do all the work remains enchanting for all the old salts on the sailboat. That it was also enchanting to Trey, for whom this was his very first time at sea in a sailboat, is a very good sign indeed. His expressive eyes opened wider as he sensed the many differences taking place around him. Small wonder he asks so many questions about how things work. No doubt about it; he wants to understand things. Takes after his Grandpa in that regard.
The sail up the coast essentially reproduced the swim Heather had taken a few weeks earlier in the annual Surf Festival Pier-to-Pier Swim. Although we were certainly sailing more to sea than Heather and the 500+ other participants swam, the essential seashore landmarks were certainly identical. This writer (AKA Grampa Rob) fondly remembers some earlier swims where he chased Heather (and perhaps 3/4 of the other active and retired lifeguards and other assorted competitive swimmers) in that glorious triathlon made up of a brief water wrestle (at the start), a two-mile swim and the final dash up the beach north of MB Pier to the finish line.
First, there was Hermosa Beach Pier to get around, at the moment a rather barren and uninteresting platform for fisherpersons and fresh sea air strollers. Then there's that familiar
oh-so-long/ much-too-short but always inspiring swim/sail up the coast to Manhattan Pier, on the one hand watching for sharks and on the other watching that familiar eclectic row of Strand beach houses, above and beyond the surf, the surfers, the frolicking beach rats and the fast-moving bicycle riders.
Angling in closer to Manhattan Beach Pier, among other reasons to try to see some dolphins (Heather has them trained to hang out there), we were not disappointed. A small pod of three, just north of the pier, performed its beautiful synchronized water ballet as we quietly sailed by. Then on to just short of Marine Street (a frequently visited beach), where we came about and headed back further off MB Pier in anticipation of, unquestionably, a spiritual event of the first magnitude.
Off the pier, it will be will recall, the boat was headed to weather, the jib was furled, the stern swimming ladder access through the transom cleared and the procession of purifications through a plunge into the blue Pacific was initiated. First in was Grampa Rob, then went, in their turn and as ready, Heather, Holly and Heidi.
Which left young master Trey the only soul aboard! Instantly and instinctively, Trey leaped forward and grabbed the helm. Not in any aristocratic, casual manner, perhaps with a foot on the wheel while sitting on one of those neat stern pulpit seats, but firmly with both hands, fully recognizing and meeting his enormous responsibility to keep the entire ship and all its crew safe and out of danger. With his eyes glued toward the bow, ready for any rogue sea (though he couldn't see the bow because the cabin house was in the way), he held a steady course, did Seaman Trey. Observation, instinct, sheer courage and intellect all combined synergetically within Trey to keep the ship from sailing away from all those p-p crew members who were happily swimming, splashing and playing around in the blue Pacific off the stern of the boat.
It seems all good things must eventually end -- if only to make room for some more good things. Reluctantly returning to the ship I had so recently, eagerly and invigoratingly abandoned, I climbed up the swimming ladder, dried off and entered into conversation with the helmsman, who informed me that all was secure on the ship and in good hands.
'Twas then I looked back over the stern and down upon you three girls, another happy pod it appeared, this time more like little mermaids, smiling, laughing, and beautiful. For a sea-loving daddy, it doesn't get any better than that.
The "Moment" over, we unfurled the Genoa and sailed quietly back to King Harbor, admiring the Great South Bay skyline. Trey did some fishing with the Genoa sheet as we reached along under a warm August afternoon sun with a just-right breeze and gently rolling quartering se”as. It was ideal for trolling and sure enough Trey landed (or shipped) not one but dozens of little creatures residing on a blade of sea grass he skillfully hooked on a half inch thick rope with a bowline tied at its end in lieu of a hook. Some fisherman!
Approaching the harbor entrance, we certainly did, as one is inclined to do, again go past the buoy with its gaggle of barking seals. "Hello" and "Goodbye" seals; see you next time. Expertly jibing, we then hardened up and pleasantly beat into the harbor with its unruffled water. Engine on (it's nice when you need it or even just want it), furl the sails, secure the bumpers and quietly coast to the conclusion of yet another soul-nourishing sail at sea.
Of course, safely secured in snug harbor after a sail requires just a bit more of the delightful, traditional and necessary ritual. On deck and below, the sailboat gets our final attention to be made ship-shape and ready (and eager) to go to sea again. Without unnecessary words, all that needed to get done was done by all, efficiently, effectively and without commotion. Always nice to sail with sailors!
© 2001 by Rob George