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The Mast Head: Cerberus Comes Home

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 19:19

It is about 30 miles in a more or less straight line from Point Judith, R.I., to the Montauk Inlet. It is difficult for me to say if it seemed that long on Saturday, when my friend Jameson and I made the crossing, sailing Cerberus to its new home.

The wind was steady from the northwest, about 15 miles an hour, and after clearing the Point Judith breakwater, we rolled out the big foresail most of the way and settled in. The tide was favorable for most of the way, though it bucked against the wind at times. Heeling about 15 degrees, Cerberus rode up and over the coming swells.

Jameson took the tiller, and after we were well clear of the shoreline, I fell asleep on the low side of the cockpit, face down in full foul weather gear. I don’t know how long I was out, but there was a point about two-thirds of the way when I woke up, looked around, and it seemed that we were out of sight of land.

Smack in the middle of October, there are few recreational boats that far out on a windy day. We had given a port-bound dragger a wide path earlier in the day, and at a point of the compass maybe south of Fishers Island and north of Gardiner’s Island, there was a speck of another commercial boat on the horizon.

I had begun the trip alone more than a week earlier in Marblehead, Mass., paused at South Dartmouth to answer a few days’ obligations, then resumed last Thursday with my friend as company. Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bays had seemed bleak and foreboding and I was kept company only by existential brooding. It was a relief when I reached Buzzards Bay, more like familiar waters.

The last legs of the route had their challenges, mostly my doing, like our first night, in Westport Harbor, when, on a falling tide close to midnight, we became stuck in the mud and I spent most of the rest of the night awake in the open companionway to keep an eye on the situation. I had failed to check the times of high and low water before setting the anchor for the night and dined on sardines and crackers.

As a result the next night, reaching Point Judith, we rowed ashore and ate two dinners apiece at Champlin’s and then nearly staggered back to where we had moored full of sea scallops, fried smelt, swordfish, and French fries. Despite a heavy rain that dripped past Cerberus’s 40-year-old porthole gaskets and onto our sleeping bags, we slept well.

The next morning, we charged toward Montauk with morning light sparkling silver easting from the direction of Block Island and small white clouds overhead.

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