Casting Bread on the Waters

What goes around comes around, they say.  I little imagined, when I gave away my first cruising boat more than fifteen years ago, that the bread I cast upon the waters then would return in the form of another boat.  What I mean is, that first boat, Capella—a 27-foot Irwin sloop my wife and I had sailed to South America and back—had languished unbought at a broker’s on the other side of the country for longer than we could afford, and I considered it a favor to me when a friend took her off my hands.  It involved a bit of a caper—enough of one that Cruising World magazine published a feature on it more than ten years ago.

We had bought Capella in a trashed-out state from a Florida thrift store and poured all our resources of time, effort, and what little money we made back then into getting her shipshape, and she was still in tidy condition when we passed her on.  So how uncanny is it that just last week we were given a boat that someone else had salvaged, loved, restored to better-than-new condition, and adventured on until he was called away?


The boat is a 20-foot plywood schooner rescued from the shallows near Edgartown and adopted by Gordon Thorne, who painstakingly rebuilt and restored her to seaworthy beauty.  She’s full of the little personal touches that signal the work of a real artist: carved duck’s heads adorn the unique boom gallows, intricate joints accent the contrasting colors of oak and african mahogany, and the figurehead is a lifelike bald eagle taking flight from the stemhead.  Nearly every detail displays meticulous thoughtfulness.


It’s a big responsibility to take on, I see as I delve deeper into the details, and we’re privileged to be entrusted with it.  The children have leapt into the project, which given the boat’s condition really only means some fresh coats of paint and varnish.  But she needs a name, she needs a color scheme, she needs cushions and they even want to make a flag.  Those are pretty much the only dinner table topics since the boat arrived.  My own biggest contribution will be upgrades in the rigging: dyneema shrouds; new sheets and halyards; some minor work on the masts, and I’ll blog about all that as time goes on.  For now we are still dazed and surprised that such good fortune should come our way, and the sight of her in the yard causes a smile every time.

But another piece of bread cast long ago has returned after many days.  It began with an email, years ago, from a writer who had a notion about a book set around a family on a sailboat, but had no real experience of sailing.  We took her out on Ganymede; we explained the nuances of families on boats; we exchanged emails—it was great fun, since I’m not often consulted as an expert witness, and several years later she sent me the manuscript to look over for nautical errors.  Well, if it doesn’t make you drunk with power to have a professor of writing at Yale send you work to edit, nothing will.  It sobered me up a little to see how very little of the novel hinged on my consultations—the cruising setting is only  a frame for the vast psychological scope of the work, but my head is still spinning, a little.  The novel is “Sea Wife,” by Amity Gaige, and in the very back she wrote a lovely thank you that would have made it all worthwhile even if I didn’t already treasure our interactions and the friendship that we now enjoy.  I can’t reproduce it here though—you’ll have to read the book and get to it that way.

Charts like this are becoming rare.
An ancient chart of Newfoundland given us by fishermen, used for our cruise, and now hanging in the living room as a reminder.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t give an update on a past blog post, “The Zartman Nautical Depository.”  It’s all about saving hard-copy charts and other nautical resources that are crucial to non-digital navigation.  Many times we’ve been helped by the loan or gift of charts we were missing; many times we have given and loaned charts and cruising guides for others to use.  The post was an appeal for charts that readers no longer wanted, that we would store them, preserve them, and hopefully even use them, rather than have them destroyed.  Several people have indeed sent bundles of charts, ones they had no space to keep but could not bear to throw away.  Soon I’ll have to build a chart cabinet to keep then all in order, but that’s a small price to pay.  I pulled some out the other day, when a friend called to ask advice on a delivery route, and how glad I was to have those at my fingertips!  So thank you, all who’ve contributed.  Be assured that your bread will return after many days.

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