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One Woman's Opinion

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First Sail of the Season

Urbanna, Va.— As spring arrives each year I feel that special tug of the sea, as English poet John Masefield put it so well in his eternal line . . . “I must down to the seas again. . . .” that annual longing for the first sail of the year. It could come as early as February, but it is more usual in April.

With the “Queen Mary” now gone off to far pastures, as old boats do, and the 26-foot Grampian day sailor “Shameless” now docked at Urbanna Harbor, we took off recently on a day that was forecast to reach 92. We had gone from winter right into the stupefying heat of summer, and all in one weekend.

by Mary Wakefield Buxton
That feeling when one first steps on board the boat in the spring is a tonic far better than any doctor’s prescription. Check down below to make sure there are no wasps nesting in the sails. No? Hurrah! We’re off!

The captain and I worked fast because even though it was early morning, the sun was already feeling hot. It would soon be unbearable. The wind was up and after the sails were hoisted, we scooted out of Urbanna Creek, the wind to our stern, like an eagle on wing.

“Hellooooooo you darling ospreys!” I heard some mad woman shout at a lone black sentry sitting on eggs in her nest at the mouth of the creek. The big bird looked down as we swooped by but had no response. Birds don’t talk like dogs do.

I was in a fine mood, my brain skittering across the royal blue, roughed up river, my body relaxed against the cabin; my soul seeping up the warm sunshine like a dry sponge takes in the sea; far away from grief over death of friends. Why dwell on sad thoughts when life is so short, I heard my inner voice saying. Better to forget what cannot be changed in this world and concentrate on what is at hand . . . the joie de vivre.

We jibed in the wind and raced west upriver as if headed for lunch at Lowery’s in Tappahannock. The wind was hard from the south at 18 to 20 mph and we were broad reached on a fine sprint. Wonderful! Oh, to fly away on wings! The river was already dotted with a multitude of bobbing crab pot markers, and we saw some watermen still at work tending pots. But very few pleasure motor yachts were out and only one sail could be seen on the far horizon.

We sailed and sailed, mad with joy, as if there were no clocks and we lost sense of time and having to be somewhere. At Water View I passed up cold sandwiches from the galley to an appreciative skipper. In spite of layers of suntan lotion slathered on our skin, we were already reddening like tomatoes on a summer’s vine.

It was only the sun’s intensity that made us finally come about and head for home. I now moved with the shade of the sails and dreamed of two big, hairy, sympathetic dogs awaiting our return who would cluck their joint disapproval of our morning exposure to too much sun—“Well, you’ve done it again, old girl, you’ve gone off without us and burnt your poor little nose,” etc. etc.—and a cool shower and collapse on the sofa in an air-conditioned room.

Oh no! That sickening swish! I knew it so well. We were suddenly aground just off Kilmer’s Point. A few choice words from the captain. An oyster boat passed and I wished for a moment that he would throw us a line and haul us off.

“Everyone to the bow!” the captain ordered, as if there were scores of people on board, and the two of us hung onto halyards and leaned far over the water. Skipper is very good at getting us off a reef because he has had so much experience; he took the jib in his hands and tightened it as if it were his own private umbrella against the wind, and we slipped off the sand bar as easily as we had slipped in.

What more in life should a woman crave for but the sweet sea, a hearty wind and getting off a sand bar?

Dockside by noon, we hurried home glad to escape the heat. But sailors take warning. Such intense April sun so early in the season may be a sign of a coming hot summer. ©2009

Father John Boddie

Citizens of Middlesex and Mathews counties and all others that Father John Boddie touched during his years with us as priest at the Church of the Visitation and Francis De Sales Church grieve this week at the loss of this priest, good friend and fellow sojourner in life. We salute the man, this extraordinary soldier of God, and the life that he gave to us.

Along with a faith that both Catholics and non-Catholics could identify with, Father John also possessed a super intellect and a personality that endeared him to all who knew him. He was the kind of man that one could have told anything to, and he would have somehow understood and forgiven our shortcomings.

And we loved him for it. Perhaps that was why his battle with cancer was even more tragic in our eyes, a disease that struck him at such a young age, and brought on his premature death at age 50.

Father John was truly a priest for all seasons. We thank him for his years of service to rural Virginia . . . his tender humanity, his faith that journeyed far beyond tenet and creed, his honest doubt, and his unquestioning love and devotion  to us. —MWB

Read Mary Wakefield Buxton’s 5-part series, “A Priest For All Seasons,” on the life of Father John Boddie.

A Priest for All Seasons, Part 1
A Priest for All Seasons, Part 2
A Priest for All Seasons, Part 3
A Priest for All Seasons, Part 4
A Priest for All Seasons, Part 5

posted 05.27.2009

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