Variety is the Spice of Sailing—and Books

A few Saturdays ago, I began the day with a standup paddle, went sailing twice (morning and afternoon), and then ended the day with another standup paddle. It was a great day.

It also highlighted the way two experiences can be completely different, even if they occur on the same day with the same people. (This isn’t a new thought; read Boats Make Memories.) And since everything these days brings me full circle back to novels, it occurred to me how different two book experiences can be, even for the same reader.

The morning sail was on Paul’s Archambault 31. We sailed out of Woods Hole and close-reached west, against the Sound’s flooding current, almost to Tarpaulin Cove. When the A5 spinnaker was ready, we tacked and set and five minutes later we were dousing to head back in the channel again. This would be the “beach read” equivalent; simple, quick, and satisfying without leaving any lingering thoughts behind to stew over.

The afternoon sail was on Katrina, the boat I grew up on. (For more detail, read Slowing Down, Down East.) The current was running west, so we reached out toward Tashmoo (a favorite destination) and tacked to reach home again. The course was simpler, but the sailing was more like a literary novel (at least for me); every fitting and fiber of that boat sparks a memory. And after almost five decades of customization, there’s nothing simple, or particularly quick, about her.

Sometimes, when there’s too much else on our minds, we just need a beach read. But when we have the mental bandwidth, literary novels are more deeply satisfying, especially the ones that linger with us long after the story ends.

Once in a great while, we might even get to enjoy both ends of this spectrum on the same day.

It’s hard to describe what I like about sailing for the same reason it’s hard to describe what I love about books; there are so many different aspects to both. Fortunately, I get to puzzle all of it out here on the blog, discovering as I write some of the many, many ways in which Books Meet Boats.