by PeterG09

(inspired by an item in the boating press. If you are able, listen to Eric Whitacre's Seal Lullaby while reading this: it has the right mood)

Head into the wind to take the pressure off the sails. Nose up into the dying evening breeze. You have done this many times before.

Yes, but almost always with you here to help.

I am here to help, with you now.

Pick up the pilot buoy with the boathook, take it up to the bow, draw up the mooring rope and drop the eye over the Samson post. Make sure the rope goes over the bow roller so that it does not chafe. It may be here a long time.

Loose the halliards and drop the sails. Take off the tack shackle, get the sheets off the jib, and release the sail from the forestay.

Fold the sail and put it in its bag. That goes in the forepeak with rest of the sails.

This is hard to do on my own.

Yes, but you only have to do it once.

Now fold the sail down on to the boom, put on the sail ties, and draw the cover on. Make it all secure so that it cannot come undone in a storm.

While you are on the bow, check that the anchor is securely stowed. Then secure the halliards. Bring the burgee and pennant down from the cross-trees. Check that the fore-hatch is closed against the weather.

It is strange doing all these things for the last time.

Remember when it was strange doing them all for the first time. When you were not sure about what to do.

Now I know and I will not be doing them again.

Things begin and end. Time passes. We pass with it.

I have checked the whole bow area. Now for the saloon.

Start with putting everything away. Store all loose items where they belong. If anyone comes to look through the windows, let them see it tidy and know that you were in your right mind.

I am in my right mind. You are in my mind.

I belong there. Check the forepeak. Put all the loose tools away. Stow the jib.

I shall not be coming up here again.

No. Now check the heads, see that the sea-cocks are off.

Hang your life-jacket on its hook inside the hatch. You will not need it again. Hang your oilskins in the wet locker to air and dry.

I am in the saloon. I shall lift the floorboards, check the state of the bilges, and pump out any water there.

While you are at it make sure there is no leaking diesel in the bilges.

Put all the navigation instruments away, with the charts in the chart drawer. Put the logbook where it belongs.

Now I am going to go through the lockdown routine. All sea-cocks off. Batteries off and isolated. Water off. Gas off.

Tip the bunk cushions up on edge so that mildew does not form under them

I remember when we lay stretched out on that narrow bunk. We were at anchor in the bay. We rocked slowly together as the bow nodded at the slow swell and little ripples lapped down the hull. That was where you laid your not-yet-a-man peach-fuzz cheek on my belly.

That was where you led me through pain when you first took me and your manhood ignited a fire in the centre of my soul.

The world was a magical place then.

It still is. We tried to have a party on the day that we reckoned I was exactly half your age. But we knew no-one would come.

The police came. They said I was too old to love. They punished me.

They punished me. They said I was too young to be loved.

I could not bear the pressure. I took the coward's way out.

You were brave and honest, and too young to have to cope with all that.

You were stronger. You fought for longer.

But now I am weary of fighting. I want it to stop.

Go in to the cockpit. Remember first to tape the letter to the inside of the window so that it can be read without breaking in. The boat does not need to punished. Anyone who finds the boat deserves an explanation of what has happened.

It will change nothing.

It is not meant to.

Put all loose ropes away in the locker. Turn off the fuel supply. See that the fuel and water fillers are secure. Bring the ensign in and put it and the boathook in the saloon. Now make one last check of the saloon from the cockpit.

Everything is in order.

Put the wash-boards in place. Close the hatch. Put on the padlock.

It is all secure.

Now drop the keys over the side.

It is so final.

It is.

There is nothing loose left on deck. All is secure.

Then step over the rail and down on to the water.

I should step in to the dinghy.

The dinghy is deflated and stored in its locker.

The rule is one hand for the boat and one for yourself.

There are no rules now. Stand on the rail. Draw a big breath and let it out. Then let go. Step lightly on the water.

Will there be pain?

A little, but nothing like the pain of separation. Nothing like the pain of loving.

Let go and step.


See, a little pain and all is gone.

We are together.

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