Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Foreshadowing on the Chesapeake Bay: Joy and Mud, the Wonders of a Long Marriage

                            Terry at the helm. "Me follow a GPS? I will when you stop screeching."

(Note to Readers: It could well be that none of the below is true. I've learned in over three decades of sailing with my wife that raising one's voice in frustration/anger accomplishes nothing and make you look and feel like a fool. I could have made all this up just to make a sedate, uneventful day sail sound more interesting. I'll let you decide.)
The Ancient Mariner would not have taken so well if it had been called The Old Sailor.

                                                                                  Samuel Butler

We are imprisoned in the realm of life, like a sailor on his tiny boat, on an infinite ocean.
                                                                                 Anna Freud

No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned... a man in a jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company.
                                                                            Samuel Johnson

I got a part as a chorus girl in a show called Every Sailor and I had fun doing it. Mother didn't really approve of it, through. 
                                                                                James Cagne

So, we spent the last couple of days on the water--on the Chesapeake or a tributary river, there of. The latter went well. Very well. We had a pleasant and very fine day launching our new skiff and puttering about the Onancock Rivrer ogling the beautiful homes the very fortunate have built along its banks. The day was perfect--blue sky, gentle breezes, cool temperatures.
                                    Onancock Harbor as viewed from our skiff: A fine and lovely day on the water. 
Yesterday the weather was about the same when we brought our new sailboat, Seawind, home from her winter boat yard, about a 3-hour sail up the Bay--a fair breeze, cerulean skies, wonderful attitudes. But a sailboat is not a skiff. A sailboat has a keel that keeps the boat upright but adds, in our case, four and a half feet to her draft. The bay is shallow--very shallow. I immediately drove her into the mud just as we were leaving the dock. I managed to throttle up and pull her out, but the day's foreshadowing (as we writers like to call it) was set. Terry took the helm and I watched the GPS, which does a great job of showing you exactly (almost) where the deep water is and where it isn't.
Problems immediately arose. Terry doesn't like following the instructions of a GPS, whether its in a car or on a boat. She'd rather do it her way. There insued what we call a "marital moment," wherein the husband, knowing he's right, gives loud instructions into the ear of a wife who is standing right next to him. The wife, certain the screeching red-faced man next to her--who may or may not be her husband once she gets ashore--is not right, continues on her way determined not to look at the GPS but at the water and the channel markers. Never mind. Out we went, winding our way down the twisting channel toward the Bay, water just a few feet deep closing in on all sides.
Over the past thirty years, combining our talents in this manner has somehow worked out for us and after half an hour, we were out in the relatively deep waters of the Bay. I put out some sail. The day was suddenly fine, the screeching stopped, the make-up kiss accomplished, love and respect re-established.

  The winding shallows negotiated, for the moment, we sail out on the Bay.

As we approached our marina, it was time for the "captain," the expert who had sailed this boat down from Long Isand, N.Y. last summer, to take over. That would be me. I took the helm and we crawled along the channel. The depth sounder said we had just .5 feet under the keel, then .0 feet, and then we began to slow down as the mud gripped at the bottom of the keel. I gunned the engine and we plowed through. We had made it. Or had we. I decided to swing the boat wide to make the turn into the narrow entrance to our slip and it was my, oh, fourth or fifth wrong decision of the day. We came to a dead stop. I throttled up. We dug in deeper and then were hard aground just 200 feet from the dock.
200 ft. from the dock, with the sun setting, we were hard aground.
We could, literally, have walked ashore.
What now? In thirty years of sailing together, we had never run aground. But that was Carribean or the Adriatic or the Pacific--this is the Chesapeake. We could have walked to shore, gotten in our waiting car, and driven home, leaving Seawind to her own devices. No, of course not. After summoning a friend, getting a line to shore, and trying to pull her off, we decided to wait for the tide to float us. We split a cold beer, we relaxed, we finally ended up almost enjoying it. Five hours later, we were afloat again.

Resigned to being hard aground, we determined to enjoy it and wait for the tide to come back an lift us off. The Onancock River is wonderful on a clear, cool, spring day at sunset.


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