I was determined to enter West Quoddy under sail despite all the breaking reefs. This made things difficult for Allan. As the wind gusted around the islands, we sailed – on our ear – through narrower and narrower passages. But we made it, tied up to the mooring that Allan had helped to set for us.
As they looked at the gap then between the boat and shore, all of a sudden Bruce and Allan grew apprehensive. I overheard Bruce ask Allan, “Are you going to wear your lifejacket ashore?” Both men looked down at my little pea pod of a dinghy as if their lives were at risk. I said, “I keep my life jacket on until I step on land” to put them at their ease.
But I chuckled to myself as I thought of all the times they’d risked being rolled by breakers out on the reefs in the fog, with the wind blowing in all the way from Portugal. Yes, when they arrived, they docked, it was true; having survived the sea they still had to cross a little patch of cold water. They knew that lots of people drown very close to home. Indeed, the original settler of the land upon which my house stood, Willie Vogler, had met that fate. He was rolled on a reef just a mile or two out.
Later, Allan confessed to me that he had been worried near the end because the trip took longer than he’d anticipated, and he had to get home to make dinner for his 90-year-old Aunt and Uncle, Aisnith and Apollos. Too, he said, still later, he wasn’t sure the boat wouldn’t tip right over when she heeled. (That was before he’d seen the deep full lead keel.)
While we were sailing that day, Bruce told me a story about Seamus: “One day I had to go to Seamus’s father’s place on Sober Island to pick up some nets or something. They were having dinner and his father asked me to sit down and join them, which I did. I’ll always remember that long table, with mother and father at each end, nine noisy young girls, and one young boy who was very quiet in between. That quiet little boy with all those sisters and not a single brother to keep him company: I thought about him. He stayed in my mind.”
“That must have been very difficult for Seamus when his father died so young, and he had to help look after all of those sisters.” I said. And he’s still looking after all kinds of sisters, I thought to myself.
Given my experience with Allan and Bruce, I should have known what to expect when it was finally time to go for a sail with Seamus. We decided to make a day of it. Seamus, Ruby and Sarah, the women who painted Seamus’s doors at his fish stores on Sober Island, and I all set off for a sail in and out of Sheet Harbour. The last time Seamus had sailed a schooner he was 14 or 15 years old. Would he remember how?