Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. was the start of the big race of the week, this time for the adults, with their sleek, knife-like Knockabouts, equipped with mainsail and jib and sporting a colorful spinnaker downwind to boot. They raced the “real” sailboat; while the young raced single-mainsail-only Beetlecats on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a kind of trainer sailboat if you will, as there was just the one sail to manage.
There would be a 10-minute gun from the little canon on the balcony of the yacht club, a horn at one minute, and the final blast of that little, mighty-mite canon to start the whole shebang. And so the Knockabouts, once dawdling about, inconclusively, behind the starting line, would be off, instantly forming a wedge-like shape of a mass of sailboats, all on the same tack in a very big hurry to get somewhere, while jousting for position and menacing each other with threats of right of way. The wedge-like shape would be pointed at the front, thick at the middle, and taper off at the end with a few hapless stragglers.
What I remember most about those adult, Sunday-afternoon races was not the races themselves — after all, I was still a boy and did not participate — but what always happened after the race was over. What happened after the race is still and will always be one of my fondest memories, and perhaps the point in my life, though very early in my life, when I was at most peace with the world at large.
After the race concluded, some of the Knockabouts would tie up right at the dock of the yacht club, while others would go back to their nearby home moorings. But after each skipper and crew disembarked, their next destination was foreordained: the Waquoit Bay Yacht Club itself. All the members of the club would descend en masse upon the yacht club, arms full with a cornucopia of hors d’oeuvres, pastries, casseroles, chocolates, and myriad delectables, on dishes, on pans, on whatever the bringer of good tidings could muster — a movable feast descending on this unique location for everyone’s mutual delight and temptation.
This was my introduction to deviled eggs, the pungency of olives, and other treats mouth-wateringly indescribable. And while I do have a high opinion of all those delectables that I made off with (as in snatched) like a nimble thief in the night, what I really remember best about that crowded, yacht-club floor, for the get-together after the Sunday race, was the sound all those mixed conversations made collectively, at once excited from the aftermath of the hard-pressed sailboat race, now merrily described and embellished with various anecdotes, both accurate and a wee bit exaggerated, but also very excited as well by such a genial atmosphere and all those scrumptious bites, tempting and merely an arm-length away.
That excited cacophony had a low-pitch roar about it, like you could cut it with a knife since it had so much substance, while undulating up and down but a few decibels, yet never fading — a rushing torrent of a swollen river after a heavy rain, it was. Now and then, you’d hear a lady’s high-pitched laughter twirl and sparkle above the din, adding just an extra touch of merriment to the festivities…or a deep-throated male belly laugh from another corner of the room punctuate the hubbub with jolly base-like notes. Those discernible notes only served to spice, now and then, the steady, impassioned roar of that fine river of sound.
It was the regular Sunday-afternoon Waquoit Bay symphony that I never got tired of listing to. An entire community that came together just to frolic for the moment — just because…and a music like no other — sadly, now, a music locked away in an inaccessible alcove of my distant past. But I once heard that music, I was there, and it was there for me; it was real and actually happened, and for all that, I am still grateful.