Thursday is arrival day, the most chaotic of Wooden Boat Festival and the most chaotic day for boaters in Point Hudson marina all year. Two hundred boats of all shapes and sizes converge on the bay, drift impatiently outside the jetty and unintentionally step on each other during radio check-in with the ebullient volunteer Harbor Master. The volume of traffic is impossible to predict due to arrival timing. The volume of tension is impossible to control due to infinite variables boaters face during the transit and in the minutes or hours as we squeeze into the marina like sardines.
As the festival director for ten years, I had the option to move my boat, PAX, into position the day before other boats arrived. This year was different. I was now just one among hundreds of captains and boats.
When the Harbor Masters opened VHF traffic an hour earlier than expected, I opted to single-hand the boat from Boat Haven rather than wait for crew to arrive. Giddy and grateful I joined the fleet of "early bird" boats circling "on hold" outside the entrance. Like a loon, PAX bobbed calmly amidst power, sail and row boats as we watched the 138 foot tallship PACIFIC GRACE cautiously enter the very narrow channel and turn in what now looked a tiny marina. With 145 feet of space to maneuver, Captain Tony Anderson and Harbor Master Daniel Evans calmly managed their crews and boats to safely moor the boat at Center Dock.
Inspired by their competence, I touched wood that my docking would go as smoothly. It was surreal to drift around in the current waiting, then abruptly, turn and motor into the basin. A couple of competent dinghy drivers stood by to help, offloading one crew member to help catch a line, just in time. In two quick tosses a decade of responsibilities melted away to this one boat - my boat - my hand calmly rested on her tiller.
Changing perspective from the hub of many people to one hand on one boat's tiller was surreal. I was still in a daze of silence, no radio, no clipboard, no meeting or drama waiting for me ashore. From the solitude of the slip, I watched the buzz and an overwhelming surge of gratitude seeped up into my soul and overflowed. The event that had consumed every moment of every day for a decade, now hummed along with the same warmth and beauty and competent volunteers that had done it before, during and after my time at the helm. As a sailor kisses the deck of her boat in a storm and the neck of her shipwright at relaunch... I kissed the wind that inspired the gathering in the first place and hopped up to greet my neighbor.