Master and commander

When I met Jack 22 years ago he had a 20-ft. boat on the Allegheny River. I’d been on plenty of sailboats and been taught sail- and line-handling by various people through the years, but a small power boat on the busy rivers of Pittsburgh was new to me. The light planing hull behaved differently from a keelboat and the constant wakes from barges and pleasure boats made for a completely different boating experience.

The first time Jack took me out on Mischievous this quiet, mild-mannered man turned to me and said, very seriously, “It’s different on a boat. When the skipper says do something, it’s no time for an argument. Just do it, because your safety or the boat’s safety may be at stake. Ok?”

His tone took me by surprise because it was so unlike the Jack I knew so far. I nodded.

“Ok,” I said. And in the following years I came to understand that there are two Jacks, the one on land, and the one who commands a vessel.

Jack was born to be on a boat. He understands instinctively the behavior of a hull in the water. He senses minute changes in pressure, movement, or sounds. When conditions are calm he grins like there’s no tomorrow, and when all hell breaks loose he acts decisively and with confidence. He takes his responsibility for the boat and its crew seriously and won’t rest until both are secure.

Yesterday after our re-anchoring incident we continued to monitor the weather, and especially the wind direction. We knew we were protected if the winds remained from the west or south, but if they turned north or east we’d be blown toward land, and land is a boat’s enemy. Land is hard.

We had heavy rains and some wind gusts around 9 pm and Jack stayed in the cockpit taking bearings to be sure we weren’t dragging anchor again. The rain stopped eventually, and Jack suggested I get some sleep. He stayed up on anchor watch all night, dozing occasionally in the saloon, going back to the cockpit when the wind kicked up. I slept peacefully, knowing that Jack was in command, and that he’d call me if he needed me.

This morning we decided to stay put. Our anchor is holding, the winds remain in the teens with gusts in the 20s. Jack makes frequents rounds, checking the anchor, the lines, the bilges and all the hundreds of other boat parts that need watching.

And I did what I do best. I made pancakes with raspberries and blackberries for the master and commander.



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7 Responses to Master and commander

  1. Love it. The photo is great, too. If you haven’t listened to or read the book, by-the-way, be sure to put it on your list. It is great.

    • John, you’re kidding, right? Jack has read every Patrick O’Brien book and is now making his way through the Dewey Lambdin series. He was determined to bring the O’Briens onboard for rereading but I convinced him to go digital and save the shelf space for our vast collection of unread Granta magazines. If a book has anything from a dinghy to an aircraft carrier in it, Jack’s probably read it.

  2. Your happiness just keeps shining through. But why weren’t the pancakes in the picture? XO to you both and to Izzy, too.

  3. Wish we were there. I hate missing all this stuff!

    • Renie

      I enjoy all your posts, but this love-letter to Jack really warms the cockles of my incurable-romantic’s heart.

  4. Deb

    Yikes – a named storm before June 1st. We’ll I guess you’re getting some valuable practice……..glad you’re safe and sound and enjoying your pancakes.

  5. Carla & Jeff

    We love the stories … keep ’em coming!!!

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