A Music Like No Other

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.

Waquoit Bay Yacht Club

Best Drink Ever


Best Drink Ever

When I was a boy growing up on Waquoit Bay on Cape Cod, there was a yacht club with a large porch and balcony facing the bay.  On one side of the porch, they kept a small canon.  You shot a blank shell when you pulled this string, and the shot would signal the start of a race for Knockabouts or Beetlecats from between two buoy markers that represented the starting line.   

If you were on one of those sailboats, you would first see this small puff of smoke made by that little canon before actually hearing the blast a few moments later — this was my first lesson in physics, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

That was on one side of the porch.  But on the other side sat this battered, bright-red Coke machine that purred a steady motor throughout the entire hot summer.  Even in the warmest part of July and August, this Coke machine would itself be cold to the touch, with a little shiver from that always humming, steady motor.

In the sweltering heat of the dog days of summer, one would be but a thin dime away from instant relief.  You put that dime into the machine and pulled this grey metal handle down hard, and then you would hear the 12-oz coke bottle rattle its way down the inside of the machine and pop out this rubberized opening at the bottom.  The thick-glass Coke bottles then had this strange greenish hue and had a metal cap.  You would take the cap off by putting it into this metal cap remover located conveniently and logically right on the Coke machine.

That first wonderful belt of really cold Coke in the intense heat of summer was the best drink I’ve have ever had or ever will have.  Nothing compared to it then and nothing has compared to it since, not the finest wine or the priciest scotch — for the price of a skinny dime.  There was such a thing as value in those day.

Waquoit Bay Yacht Club

A Sail Away Adventure

Pine Needles

All Poetry — Henry Barnard

My Story