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Best Day On The Water: Perfect Strangers

Strange sail illustration

Illustration: Gary Hovland

It was a gorgeous day in Norfolk, Virginia, as I prepared our Capri 22, Atom Ant, for a solo sail. The year was 1993. As I was readying the boat, I noticed an older man, who I gauged to be of retirement age, on the dock and staring down at me. We exchanged a few pleasantries. I learned he used to live in Norfolk and, like me, had worked in the hospital industry. He seemed like a nice guy, so I spontaneously asked if he'd like to join me on such a beautiful day. He seemed surprised but hesitantly accepted.

I quickly realized this stranger, whose name I've long since forgotten, was a sailor when he readily helped raise the sail and we took off on a beam reach. We left the confines of Willoughby Bay and sailed into the Elizabeth River and Hampton Roads. The breeze was steady as I offered him the helm while I moved to the starboard rail.

For the next hour or so, hardly a word was spoken as we enjoyed the sunshine and long beam reaches. Each of us was left to our own thoughts. He was an ideal sail partner for this contemplative sail.

As we returned to the dock, I took back the helm. "My wife passed a year ago to this day," he quietly said. "We used to sail, just the two of us, on these very waters. Thank you."

With a tear in my eye, I contemplated how our humble boat, Atom Ant, had brought together two perfect strangers for a moment in time.


Don Gilmore

Contributor, BoatUS Magazine

Don Gilmore is a BoatUS Member.