This being the middle of August and the summer so far having provided the usual variety of boating accidents, some harebrained and all sad, I was about to write a curmudgeonly item about the perennial problem of more and more horse power in the motors and less and less horse sense in the pilots when, thank god, I was brought up short by a little voice. “Hey,” it said, “don’t! You’ve embarrassed yourself before with that rant.”
“Newshawk,” I said, “is that really you? Where have you been keeping yourself? Good grief, I haven’t seen you for – for – more than twenty years!”
Now for anyone who hasn’t met Newshawk or doesn’t remember him I should explain that he’s not your average journalist. Physically he’s about the size of a – well – let’s just say he’s tiny. But as for attitude – humungous needs more syllables.
“Look, Newshawk old friend, you came along years ago when I was unhappily writing editorials and I must say you brightened my life. You even hung on with some – ahem – ‘guidance’ — when I had a column. But really – not now – not again –”
He performed that little keyboard dance that used to infuriate me but now nostalgia almost made it appear delicately petite. What was more annoying was that the little rascal hadn’t aged. Everyone is supposed to age! What kind of a journalist doesn’t know that?
“Begone,” I said, “and quit stomping on the Ctrl key. Go help someone else.”
“Won’t. Can’t. Got to save you from you. I had to tell you off way back in ’87. Surely you remember?”
As a matter of fact I didn’t remember but I did a little research and sure enough he was right. I had even chronicled our little exchange.
A Sailor Confesses
I was standing by the lake. A stiff wind was blowing from the northwest and whitecaps were fleeing from it.
“Going sailing?” asked a small voice.
“Are you nuts?” I replied. “This is October. The boat’s going into storage.”
My small catamaran looked forlorn as it sat on its skids with autumn leaves blowing across its trampoline deck.
“Getting soft, are we?” asked the voice.
I thought at first the boat was talking to me, but then the loony dropped. “Newshawk, old friend, where are you?”
He appeared, microphone first, out of a small cavity the water had eroded behind a retaining wall.
“What are you up to?” I snapped.
“A journalistic first,” he said. “Doing a follow up. Reporters never follow up, but I am.”
“You. In June you wrote a column roasting careless boaters.”
He skittered in under the trampoline to get out of the wind and stuck the mike up through the lacing. “So how’s the summer been? No problems with, I quote, hulls powered by big motors and piloted by minuscule brains?”
“Did I say that?”
His head came up after the mike and he surveyed the catamaran. “Why is that hiking strap torn? Isn’t that a new joint on the tiller arm? Why’s the top of the mast covered with mud?”
“Last time out — well — the lake wasn’t deep enough.”
“Ah, ha!” he chortled. “You upset!”
“No,” I said, with dignity. “My son did. Sailing with his sister-in-law.”
Newshawk looked startled. “You let innocent folk use this contraption?”
“It’s just a sailboat.”
He braved the elements and perched on the crosswing that links the hulls. “I hear you’ve been found swimming in the middle of the lake, waving your hat.”
“A minor accident. I was hull flying.”
“You mean this thing lifts one hull away out of the water?”
“I spilled wind suddenly, came down hard from about four feet in the air, and, well, fell off backward. No problem.” [Four feet was a gross exaggeration. Three, maybe.]
“Why didn’t you climb back on board?”
“The boat’s a little peculiar. It can sail by itself. It didn’t wait.” His line of questioning was making me a little uncomfortable.
“I hear you were picked up by a boat with a big motor. Piloted by minuscule brains?”
“They were very nice people. They were bright enough to know that a sailboat without a sailor was not right, so they went searching. I thought it was awfully nice of them.”
My interrogator popped into the shelter of a coil of rope and continued the inquisition.
“Of course,” he said, “sailboats aren’t very fast.”
I took the bait. “It’s good for 24 knots! That’s about 43 kilometers per!” No one was going to belittle my baby.
“Is that why you were limping around emergency one day?”
“I was merely having my leg x-rayed.” This was preposterous. How did he know about that?
Newshawk chortled his way into full view. “I hear the whole thing somersaulted?”
“It can do that,” I said, defensively. “If you’re running, or on a broad reach and happen to bury both bows, then, well, yes — ”
“Let me get this straight. You’re out there skipping along at full throttle when you bury both hulls. The whole bizarre contraption somersaults. The trampoline works like a slingshot and you get fired off forward like a load from an old cannon. Your leg hits the mast as you soar on through the rigging and you wind up in emergency checking for a cracked thigh bone?”
“Something like that,” I confessed, not caring in the least for his description. “Look, I was tired,” I said, by way of explanation. “I think my attention wandered.”
He climbed partway up the mast and stuck the mike right in my face. The journalistic pest was getting ready for the coup de grace. “I don’t believe,” he said, “that there’s a window in your sail?”
“Like a mere sailboard? Of course not!”
“So when you’re hull flying out there at 30 to 40 clicks, liable to fall off, somersault, or otherwise terminate, you can’t even see where you’re going?”
“And you,” he said, “had the nerve to write about reckless boaters!”
“They’ve been very good this summer, ” said I, in my most ingratiating manner. “I have no complaints. I wish them dry storage and happy dreams.”♣
So, after having my nose rubbed in that bit from my personal archives, I simply gave Newshawk an ingratiating little smile, said it was good to see him again, and offered the tip of a pinky for a handshake. “Will it be okay if I just wish everyone safe boating for the remainder of the season?”
“Please do,” he said.
So I do.
♣ A sailor confesses.
From: Down Paradox Lane
Lindsay This Week, October 13, 1987
Copyright © Munroe Scott