Dinghy <3, Shooting Stars & Bioluminescent Waters

Every Girl Deserves A Good Dinghy, or so Jes-sea once told me, well this sailing girl has finally found hers. After months of research and scouring craigslist I finally took the plunge settling on a 7’11” Dyer ‘Midget’ with a sailing rig and pair of oars.  A little fiberglass beauty with solid design, hand laid fiberglass construction, and bronze hardware details, Dyer dinghies are classic tenders that surprise, are still being built to this day. I figure a company that’s been making and selling handcrafted dinghies for over 80 years must be doing something right.  The real kicker? It was in St. Augustine in the possession of an acquaintance I knew from my time teaching sailing camps there. So off I went to St. Augustine for a night. I got to catch up with my ‘sailing sisters’ Rachael & Jes-sea, then picked up the dink before getting back on the road the next morning.  A trip to one of my favorite places, a chance to catch up with two of my favorite people, and a new sailing toy all wrapped into one?! Yes, yes, and yes.  So home I came happy as a clam ready to try out my new dink…only life and weather was uncooperative.  Between work and afternoon thunderstorms I didn’t have an opportunity to take her out for another four days.

Finally Thursday night the clouds had cleared and there was a bit of steady wind stirring around the marina, I wasn’t waiting any longer. I grabbed a headlight and rigged up the sail. Tommy came along for ride and we slid silently out of the marina into the barge canal headed for the river.  It’s August and the bio-luminescent algae in the water is at its peak. The water was ALIVE, all around us fish could be seen darting in ever direction. Their rapid movements illuminated from the stirring algae.  Behind us my little dinghy’s wake looked like clouds of pixy dust floating through the water.  Above us the sky was dark and starry with no moon in sight.  I spotted several shooting stars streaking across the horizon, the first of many to come from a meteor shower that would peek over the weekend. We reached the river and sailed out of the channel into the shallows of a small mangrove island. BIG glowing silhouettes of fish started streaking out from beneath us. My dagger board hit bottom and so I headed back for deeper water.  My little dinghy sailed pretty good with two us on board.  It had been a long time since I’d sailed a small boat and just as my heart was filling with joy about how this moment seemed so perfect it got even better. I heard the distinct sound of a dolphin exhale. On the other side of the channel were pair of dolphins herding schools of fish onto the shallow riverbank.  We sailed right up to them, the water boiled with fish, the dolphins in quick pursuit, the entire dance illuminated right before our eyes.  We came with in about 10 feet of them and for a moment the action was all around us, then swiftly they had continued their hunt up the riverbank.

I tacked around and headed us back toward the Marina but once we got into the barge canal the wind became shifty and I was unable to make any headway. No problem, break out the oars….this should be pretty straight forward right? Not quite, who knew rowing was such a highly refined skill!! After about 20 minutes of laughter, frustration, some serious concentration, and still no headway Tommy finally agreed to take over. Thank goodness cause well I’m sure I would of made it back eventually, it would have been a long sleepless night and I think I would have returned as one giant bug bite.  I have since been working on my rowing skills and I’m happy to report they’re coming along nicely.  I’m growing to love my little dink more and more every day.  I was on the fence about a hard dink vs an inflatable, which is what every cruiser seems to recommend these days, but I am so happy I ended up with a little sailing/rowing dink instead. I even found an old school 2hp Evinrude outboard, so I can motor as well, if I like. I’m sure that there will be moments in the future were, weather, or distance, or who knows what may cause me to look at an inflatable roaring by me with envy from my hard little dink. But I also know there will be many more moments of wonder like that of the dolphins hunting in the bio-luminescence of the Indian River. It was a moment that could of easily slipped by unnoticed if it had not been for the silent mobility, that sailing affords.  It is that silence, or rather those sounds you can hear, the creak of your boat, the water against your haul, the dolphins exhale, that allow your senses to come alive and in tune with the world around you.  It is a huge part of my love for sailing; I live for that moment when the sail goes up, the engine goes off and peace floods my senses.