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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)

TITLE: Sailing Into the Future
By Nancy Tilson


The freshening westerlies caught both the mainsail and the jib and filled them. With the engine off, the serenity of the brilliantly clear day was complete. My husband and I were off on a shake-down cruise on our 25’ sailing sloop. I leaned back in my deck chair as he programmed the auto pilot and headed into the cabin to doff his now much- too-warm jacket. I was left with the sun on my face and my recollections.

His dream had always been to own a sailboat and eventually to retire and sail. His job was stressful, with constant traveling around the globe coordinating computer systems. So accustomed to movement was he, that even when home he rarely sat still. Only on his boat was he able to slow down, relax and be free of the constant demands placed upon him. There peace was his favorite companion.

Which isn’t to say I wasn’t invited to this party. After all, he needed a first mate and I’d filled that role in an entirely different way for over 40 years. He even had named the boat after me. Though he claimed it was so I’d always be with him even when not physically on board, I always felt it was more in reference to the fact it was very ‘broad-beamed’. That also means stable…maybe I’ll make that the reference point.

This was to be a three day trip up the mighty Columbia River. We headed upriver planning to stay in Camas the first night after 8 or so hours of sailing and then scheduled a longer 10 hours the second day as we’d need to go through the Bonneville Lock system before arriving at the community of Cascade Locks where we’d anchor for the night. The third day would be easy. Simply negotiate the Lock early and sail with the current back into Portland in 6 or so hours. A good plan, a well thought out plan, a plan…

I opened my eyes and spotted an osprey’s nest on a buoy marking the south side of the channel. Small open beaks greeted the parent who deposited morsels into the gullets and rose to search for more tidbits for her offspring. Her mate spiraled down to take her place in the nest. Obviously no empty nesters here. We on the other hand had 3 happily married children on their own and doing well.

My gaze shifted to the Washington side of the river, some half-mile distant, where the rocky start of the Columbia River Gorge was becoming apparent. Mountains of spiked rock, its marbled veins slanting down to the water, testified to rumbled beginnings in the distant past. I heard the mournful baying of a freight train as it headed east, much more rapidly than we, disappearing into a tunnel in that rock.

Murray climbed up from the cabin, now attired in jean shorts, a tee shirt, and a wide grin. “This is retirement! It won’t be too long and we’ll be planning our sail to Hawaii.” He took his seat at the helm, switching off the auto pilot.

“Let’s just take one trip at a time and enjoy it,” I suggested. I wasn’t yet ready to contemplate 30 days at sea with no land in view.

The current was becoming stronger, the river narrower, as the rock rose high above us on both sides. The wind had been directly behind us and we’d been running before it, our sails filled and driving us due east. But now, the wind bounced off the cliff sides, variously filling and emptying the sails. It was time to do some serious sailing. We prepared to trim the sails.

I caught a glimpse of color off to my left. I wind surfer, his bright multicolor sail full, was racing in from the edge of my vision. Simultaneously, a gust of wind drove us directly toward him. He seemed oblivious to us.

“Look out!” I screamed as we fought to avoid the inevitable.

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This article has been read 409 times
Member Comments
Member Date
c clemons09/18/09
Obviously something to be continued. A couple of places the change up was abrupt, required re-reading which you don't want your reader to do too many times.
Karen Pourbabaee 09/18/09
Very good descriptions & you painted a peaceful portrait of both retirement/empty nesters life, liked your comparison of the gulls nest to the characters life,I found the piece flowed smoothly just like the sailing.