All Hands on Deck

I smiled as I watched a grandmother and her granddaughter prepare for a sail.  They were trying to get their sailboat on the water in the midst of a very busy harbor.  The grandmother and the granddaughter worked as a team; clearly they had done this before.  They were a Cap’n and a First Mate.

The first order of business was to navigate the tender boats that were moored on the inside of the dock fingers.  There was only a foot or two of water, and the two calmly spoke back and forth, moving, all the while, with surgical precision past the dinghies and the inflatables.  Not once did they bump a moored boat.

The First Mate held the sailboat against the dock finger.  She used a paddle to keep it from crashing into the other boats and waited patiently for the Cap’n to return.

The Cap’n checked the mast and all the rigging, hoisted the boom, and prepared the main sheet and the jib.  All eyes were on the Cap’n and the First Mate when they donned their life jackets, untied the bow line, and hoisted the sheet.

Talented sailors enter and exit a harbor under full sail, and there was a pop when the boom swung out and the sheet caught the breeze.  The Cap’n and First Mate sailed past the moored boats that would spend the day tied to a mooring ball.  I believe those moored boats were jealous.

They sailed past the breakwall, beyond all the houses on the neck, past the island and way out to the point.  There they saw seals, the cute harbor seals and the long-faced horsehead seals with the face of a thoroughbred.

Bright sun tanned their faces and salt spray tightened their skin.  On their way back in the sun was setting in vibrant colors.  It was about as perfect a day on the water as any crew could have.  And it was a memory that only a grandmother and a granddaughter could properly share.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at