Rhumb Lines December 2012 Issue

Farewell, Sandy . . . and Good Riddance

Hurricane Sandy spirals toward the New Jersey coastline on Oct. 28, 2012.

More than any other group of people, sailors are accustomed to letting go. Letting go of shore. Letting go of accumulated stuff. Letting go of people.

But that doesn’t make it any easier.

After Typhoon Paka tore through Guam back in 1997, I remember digging through piles of timber, tin-sheet roof, and sailing gear at the storm-ravaged home of Capt. Stan Hall and his gracious wife, Linda, a science teacher. The couple had generously allowed my wife Theresa and I to store our sails and other bulky gear in an outbuilding on their property while we carried out a refit on Tosca. The shed was a complete disaster—roof blown off; stuff piled everywhere. We found some of the lightweight gear, like seat cushions and sails, strung across a barb wire fence far from the Hall’s property. Other possessions, like a weathered life-ring that we had kept more for its sentimental value than for its usefulness, we never found.

At least we hadn’t made the same mistake that we did in Hurricane Andrew, when through a series of bad, rushed decisions, some family photo albums wound up on the floor of my mother’s house in Miami. We managed to salvage some of the waterlogged images, but many were lost forever. Gradually, the memories of people, places, and events that were once important to us were lost with the photos, which were our only connection to those times.

Ask any long-time cruising sailor what is the hardest part about cruising. Storms? Lack of sleep? Solitude? Fear? Having no fixed place to call home? I doubt he or she will answer any of these things. It is the letting go.

Saying goodbye to friends you only met a week or so before, but with whom you’ve forged a friendship as close as any you’ve ever known. Saying goodbye to the sights, sounds, and smells of this, your new favorite harbor. Saying goodbye to the $100 port exit fee that el capitán del puerto has demanded.

But it is another thing altogether to let go of a boat. No matter what they might say about man’s happiest day, there is no easy way to kiss a boat goodbye. A good boat is more than a friend, family, home, or food for the soul. Over time, it becomes part of you, an extension of your greatest aspirations—a means of escape to out there

. . . somewhere.

So when the salvage cranes and barges start moving into the wrecked marinas of New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York, and when the broken hulls and cracked masts and twisted steel are ferried off to scrap yards in Newark or Philly, there will be no tears. No elegies. No epitaphs. There will be no sad goodbyes. A boat deserves better than that.

A simple, “Good riddance, Sandy,” (expressed with a heartfelt New Jersey salute) will do just fine.

Our hearts go out to all our friends in the Northeast who are still recovering from this storm. Chin up, keep your eyes fixed on the horizon. There will be better days ahead. And one day in the not-so-distant future, may you find a new hull and rig that suits your passions, a new boat to help you remember . . . how hard it is to let go.

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