The wavelets lapped against Solstice's hull as she motored slowly down the channel. The sun had just dropped out of sight, filling the western sky with tongues of flame, blending into the deepening indigo sky. Short evenings and cooler temperatures signaled the end of a beautiful summer, and this was the last sail of the season. Memories of rail-down exhilarating rides; warm, tranquil sails; and refreshing afternoon swims replayed themselves through my mind.
Solstice, a Catalina 25 I sail out of upstate New York on Lake Ontario, nosed her way out of the harbor into the lake. The water's motion settled into a slower, rhythmic pattern as we transitioned to the Great Lake's clear blue water. First main, then genoa, the sails were hoisted to the masthead. Blessed quiet envelopes us as the motor shuts down.
Solstice sniffed for a breeze like a hound on the scent of a rabbit. Little by little the increasing speed could be heard in the water slipping by the hull. Soon the lee rail tipped gently toward the water as the sun's last rays faded from the sky.
The full moon ruled now, lighting each wave and dancing up and down the spars as the hull pitched gently. Slowly, more and more stars dotted the sky. Familiar shapes took their places in the heavens. Constellations that have guided sailors for centuries now serve only as a backdrop for our pleasure. There were no other vessel lights; we were alone on the lake it seemed, on this, the most perfect night of the year.