Sunday, May 16, 2010

An Occurrence At Old Lyme Bridge

No matter what the calendar and thermometer may read, it is the Old Lyme Railroad Bridge that marks my seasons . When I sail north of this span in November, the bridge closes behind me, and my winter begins.
For the past several years, Carina has spent her winter months in a boatyard a few miles above this bridge. I still sail her occasionally in late fall and early spring, but always north of the span. Until I venture to the other side, it all seems like an exhibition game to me. It doesn't really count. 
This 1907, truss-style, bascule bridge is my Checkpoint Charlie; my San Ysidro. Passing beneath her is my spring and autumnal equinox.

There is something that feels very unnatural when a boat passes under a bridge. The charts and signs all show that there is plenty of clearance, but I still find myself second guessing the dimensions. I envision the mast being too tall, hitting the bridge, and then falling down. If only Freud were aboard to diagnose and explain my  mast-envy, and dismasting anxiety.

But there are no mishaps, and the bridge operator gives me a wave as I clear the opening. I turn to wave back and immediately realize that I am south of the bridge. "See you in November" I yell to him.

Ahead of me I can see the two lighthouses at Saybrook Point, and I smell the salt water in the breeze. A small wave rolls in from the Sound and smacks the hull broadside, spraying my face lightly. It's a brisk and salty reminder that Carina has been released from her winter stall, and is now free to roam in what F. Scott Fitzgerald called "the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound". 

Soundbounder: November
Soundbounder: Ferry Landing Park


Baydog said...

The comforts of a ritual. This could have been my post. Matt, you are just as sentimental as I am. The familiar sights, smells and feelings you encounter by doing the same thing year after year on cue are re-assuring to say the least.

I'm always paranoid going under a bridge, no matter what the guaranteed clearance may be. Depth perception suffers when you're in a bobbing vessel, looking straight up, and the hollow, echoing sound of being directly beneath the bridge is all you can hear. Hello summer!!

Lisa said...

Oh so nice. Thank you for sharing this.

mari said...

These were indeed beautiful words - the kind of beauty that makes me smile and fall asleep happy ( just because it is late...)

Christine said...

Matthew, great post. Although I do not know what it's like to sail under a bridge, you painted a picture of what it might be like. Thank you for taking us all on that journey with you! I can't wait to see the OL bridge again this summer.

Anonymous said...

sounds like Carina was splashed for 2010.
after a two year hiatus, we should be launched in another two weeks...and looking forward to a trip through the sound later in the summer. a reenactment of past raft ups may be in order.


Unknown said...

Did you get choked up at the end of Bridges Of Madison County? Nah, neither did I.

Ocean Girl,
I am glad you enjoyed it.

Sweet Dreams

Welcome home. I really enjoyed your Newport posts.

Hey stranger! Glad to hear you are back in the game. Actually have been in for a while, but stayed on the river for a few weeks. I need to track down your email, and get in touch.

Sorry for the delay in responding everyone.

Allan Stellar said...

Enjoy your summer sailing! And thanks for the link to my blog...


Me said...

aww... what a well written post that relays your special tradition. I never had any bridges to pass under with my boat but miss it and remember fondly the summer tradition of readying it and the first trip out into the sound each year... not so much the fall winterizing though. When I sold my boat I was heart broken but named my "reason" Marina and she has proven worthy of the budget cut but I can't wait to get here out there again. She loves to kayak, baby steps...

Jeannette StG said...

Ow, you could write a novel about your life!
Me thinks that your apprehension about the mast is only normal(!), so you don't need Freud, LOL!

will said...

happy summer then. i like the f scott fitzgerald quote.

Unknown said...

Thanks Heather, Thanks Allen, Thanks Will.

Well, if you say so. You are the expert after all.

callsign222 said...

Great blog and great post! I grew up a few miles from this bridge, heck I probably worked at the yard where you winter your boat when I was a kid. No place like Long Island Sound and the local waterways. This bridge was always the boundary between "my" river and the great big beyond. As a small-boat aficionado, access is crucial. Water is our birthright, we must protect our access to it. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the kind words. Just curious,... where are you located now?

callsign222 said...

New Hampshire. Somewhat centrally located right now near Concord, about 40 min. from Sunapee, Newfound and Winnipesaukee lakes.

A move eastward closer to the water and the coast is pending. Back to the salt!

Mike H said...

Ahh, going under bridges . . .

Long ago, my family had chartered a boat & we were spending time in Newport. Took the boat up Narragansett Bay and under the Newport Bridge. On the way back we were on a comfortable run and would have to point up to go under the bridge in the main channel. Rather than do that, my father thought it looked like we would have plenty of room passing between the piers that were right in front of us.

I had the helm. As we got closer I thought that we were going to hit the bridge but Dad said to keep going. Remember, we were in a strange boat in an area we rarely sailed. As we closed with the bridge I got in position to jump off of the boat as the mast would be coming back at me. And - BOING, BOING, BOING, BOING - the antenna was hitting the steel support ribs under the road decking.


After I joked that when the boat was laid up for the winter, the owner of the boat was going to wonder about the green paint on his antenna whip. Good times.