The Sound and the Silence
(I wrote this some years ago. I dust it off now because the Malabar X has got my sailing juices flowing again, and because ... well, just because I like the piece.)
By Charlie Haeffner
Can I go on it, Dad? Huh? Can I?
Okay with me, I said, but we gotta ask Mike. And David ...
You gotta go with me.
Awwww, I can handle it alone. Really I can. No sweat.
No way, I said. We ask Mike. If he says yes, then well go out.
We were at a party
at Keuka Lake -- a half-hour to the west of our Odessa home --
That last was the focus of my teen-aged sons fervent
wishes -- something hed long
Grumbling at the restriction, he asked Mike, got permission,
and we headed out onto
When we retruned to shore, David shepherding the vessel in,
he was clearly of the
Can I go out alone? he asked. Its easy to drive.
He had handled himself well on our ride, so I no longer had
serious -- middling, yes,
Check with Mike, I said.
Yes! he responded, and went in search of our host.
Minutes later, with Mikes blessing, David was out on
Keuka alone, powering the
I watched from the Gossie dock, still harboring -- despite
myself -- a bit of parental
Solitude ... peace and quiet.
Everything out there was so loud.
My thoughts turned inward, turned backward, swam against the tide of noise.
There was something ... something I had once loved, something
about the water,
What was it ...
A vessel of another kind.
No engine, no jets, no noise to speak of. An inherent beauty in its silence.
Hmmmm. None out here on Keuka, I thought, scanning the horizon.
Very few on
Sad, really, I decided. Sailboats used to mean so much more
in my life; used to reflect
Ah, sailboats ...
The year was 1966.
It was a scorching hot summer, hotter than the drought year
of 88, hotter than the
We couldnt move. It hurt too much.
Our sailboat -- a small model, a Sunfish -- sat anchored in
the still water offshore,
Then, one night, it did. And carried through into morning.
It gave some relief, yes --
Across the waters of the lake lay a camp -- a Catholic boys
camp. And on that
Nobody saw it happen, but the camp officials, alarmed when
he did not return, soon
That was the sight that greeted us when we set foot outside
that day, on the way to
And so it was. The diving continued for hours, the breeze
gradually dying, until late
Then ... a diver popped up and motioned to the deputies in the boat.
They motioned back, and within minutes the divers and deputies
were lifting the
The deputies said nothing to us, merely nodded gravely as
they started their engine
The lake by then was becalmed, but it didnt matter.
We wouldnt have budged for
The year was 1968.
A girl visiting relatives across Lake 27 swung by our cabin
on a Sailfish twice, giving
On a third pass, despite her evident sailing abilities, she
flipped the boat over a few
My brother watched from where he was sunning, bathing-suit
clad, on a chaise lounge
Moments later, the craft righted, he invited her in for a
drink. I watched all of this
As they passed me on the way to the cabin door, the girl looked
my way and, reading
I never did learn to like her, nor she me.
Not through all their months together.
The year was 1970.
The idea first arose at a college party with a little too much beer.
If I were hip, I would say now that reefers were behind it;
but in truth, neither I nor
But the image somehow retains a marijuana-like haze.
Probably, if my friends and I had pursued our idea, it would
have ended badly.
We decided, that night, to live on a sailboat after graduation.
Sailboats were all the
Sailboats possessed an earnestness that was inherent in the
We were ready that night -- and for a few weeks afterward
-- to disavow most of our
We would rise above the Eve of Destruction, above the din
of despair that our
There were four of us (two couples) plus an infant, so we
would need sleeping room
That would mean a ship of some 40 feet, we figured -- not
of course, knowing how to
I recall the initial conversation vaguely. The words have
not carried across the years
We will, of course, need jobs of some kind, I said.
We can get them at the various ports of call,
said the other male, Richard, a lanky
The girls, he added, nodding in the direction
of his wife and my then-wife, can
The words brought me back to Keuka -- my sons words
as he had lobbied to ride the
Of course, a dream beyond ones means is all sweat, and
generally quite impossible.
My friends and I talked about it from time to time as graduation
neared, as though we
We kept sporadic contact afterward, but the dream died aborning.
I managed several sailing trips in succeeding years -- weekend
and weeklong jaunts
But now, decades later, watching the waters of Keuka and a
boy on a jet ski, the
There, on the shores of Keuka, I could recall ... smell, inhale
... the essence of sailing
David was cruising in now, slowly approaching the dock, his
face alight with the joy
I smiled at him.
Can I stay out a little longer? he asked.
Sure, I said, figuring -- hoping -- Mike wouldnt mind. Youre doing great.
Man, we gotta get one of these, he said, and he
opened the throttle, turned and
Ah, dreams, I thought. Maybe theyre more the province
of the young. Maybe thats
But that ride I had taken with David was pretty impressive.
Not quiet, for sure. But
Maybe dreams die, I reasoned ... but that doesnt mean
that their more reasonably
Maybe getting one of these vehicles wouldnt be out of
the realm of reason, I told
Maybe, I thought, I could convince my wife that it was a good
idea, a good
Maybe David could work on her, too.
Maybe ... maybe I could check in with my Mom -- widowed and
She was near the water, could smell the salt spray as it carried
in from the Gulf of
She likes the water, I told myself.
Maybe shed listen.
After all ... I never had hit her up for the 40-foot sailboat.
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