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The Mast-Head: Alone at Anchor

Wed, 10/07/2020 - 16:56

This column is being written toward sunset on Tuesday at anchor in the harbor at Plymouth, Mass. I have had time to think this week. A replica Mayflower is docked near the channel; an incongruous paddlewheeler ingeniously devised to separate the tourists from their money is tied up alongside.

The paddlewheeler is the Plymouth Belle, its name a completely American mishmash of times and dates, evoking both the hearty Pilgrims and King Cotton of the Mississippi. This is what greets visitors coming in from Massachusetts Bay, which is more or less empty by this time of the year.

In an era in which we reach for our smartphones during moments of downtime, we are almost never alone. You have to work at solitude, on being free from the thoughts of others. Radio, television, Twitter, Facebook, email are solitude-busters. Alone time, something so many of us say we want, is elusive.

Other than the lobster boats, there had been no company all the way down from Cohasset Harbor, where I had spent the previous night. Twice, a Coast Guard helicopter flew over, once northbound, once south. Not long after its second pass, the wind got to be too much directly from the direction I was trying to reach. I put down the sails, kicked over the 40-year-old Volvo diesel, and made for Gurnet Point.

A few small powerboats passed inshore of me too far to see their occupants. A sailboat, running under bare poles like mine, came in from the south, probably after passing through the Cape Cod Canal.

Talk on the radio with the Plymouth Harbormaster about a mooring for the night was brief. He came by in a light-blue launch after I had tied up and asked, “How you doing, cap’n? Need a ride?” I was fine where I was, I told him. That was enough conversation for one day. I straightened up the things had moved around during the sail and thought about supper.


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