Each time I sail out of Elizabeth City on the Paquotank River I wonder why I sail anywhere else. Looking downriver from the waterfront, the water stained tea-colored by the cypress swamp, seems to go on forever. Tree-lined, the winding river goes from northwest to southeast, peaceful and uncrowded.
I cast off under full sail, soon reefing and then again tucking in a second reef. The wind was hot and strong. But even with all the wind out of the west and southwest the water remained calm. Perfect sailing.
I soon saw friend Scoot rounding up in Forbes Bay to raise a double reefed sail on the Marshall 18' Sanderling "Lil' Mooker" catboat he bought a while ago and is fixing up. I sailed over and ungraciously asked if I could anchor Spartina and hop on Scoot's boat for a while. He made two passes at Spartina to "suss out the wind" then came in a rounded up gently on the port quarter. Pushing off from Spartina he told me to take the tiller.
I have always admired the Sanderling design and at times thought if I wanted a larger boat the catboat would be high on my list. Just 18' long, but beamy and coming in at about 2,000 pounds, the boat was very solid on the water. And talk about space - the cockpit is huge. One tack up the river and then a tack back down, Scoot rounded up again and I stepped back aboard Spartina, the catboat never even stopping. Then we sailed alongside each other for a while and enjoyed the hot summer day.
The ramp is on Knobbs Creek and across the bridge from the ramp is a park with a shelter. Approaching the ramp I could hear live music being played. It was a revival: religion with a heavy base line. Breaking down Spartina's rig - and feeling every one of the 117 degrees of heat index - the music gave way to preaching and then the call and response that is heard throughout the south. I believe souls were being saved, though not mine. A colleague once suggested that it was only because of acts of kindness by the Pilgrim, my wife, that I have any chance at all to get into heaven. I did not disagree with him.
It was a nice day on the water.