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The Mast-Head: One Way, and the Other

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 11:54

Tuesday morning before voting I took advantage of a daylight low tide to pull a mooring from the bay. Fair weather in the month of November is difficult to come by. Though there were matters to take care of at the office, the tide and wind were to turn later in the week. I put on a heavy wetsuit, and with a mask waded out.

Out on the silver bay, two boats circled, dredging for scallops. They had been there the day before, suggesting that despite predictions of a poor season, they had found enough to return.

Ashore, the beach was flat, hard from a strong northwest wind followed by rain that had tamped the sand. The dogs watched for a time then went back to the house. Wearing a wetsuit, it was impossible to stay on the bottom to remove the shackles from the mooring in one breath. But the water was clear and calm, so I floated, catching my breath before diving again.

I’d given up on cast-iron mushroom anchors about two years ago. With success, I instead now use so-called helical anchors, nothing more than a galvanized shaft with a ring on one end and an offset flange welded onto the other. In the spring, they are screwed into the sand like a corkscrew into cork; in the fall, it’s the reverse.

By the time the shackles were off, the tide had come in as far as my chest. With a length of old pipe through the eye, I walked in meditative circles, slowly drawing the shaft out of the bottom.

I thought of the Buddhist and Hindu practice of a ritual circuit. I thought of bonfires that, as they fail, spectators rush to walk or run around. I thought of priests casting incense smoke on altars, and of the Stations of the Cross. I thought of pilgrims during the Hajj going round the Kaaba.

I thought how fitting it was that in the spring I had driven the anchor down clockwise but now, going the other way, got it ready to put away. Then I thought about nothing at all. The sun came out from behind the clouds for a moment.


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