Tuesday, October 1, 2013

International One Design

Rachel and Charlie's beautiful boat

Nancy and I were treated to an afternoon of sailing on Long Island Sound this weekend with Nancy's friend and former classmate Rachel and her husband Charlie.

The International One Design

Rachel and Charlie own a beautiful wooden International One Design that Charlie races out of Fishers Island, New York. I've heard of these boats over the years but never really clued into them or paid much attention in particular, perhaps because the name sounded modern and tech-y and I assumed it was probably a boat that wouldn't much interest me.



Conversely, I spent much time admiring the Shields that was moored just a little ways out from my grandparents house on Narragansett Bay; it caught my eye even when I was a little kid and didn't think about boats all that much. I always appreciated its sleek elegance. It stood out from the rest of the boats and I can distinctly see it in my mind's eye even now. Coming into West Harbor with Rachel and Charlie, I immediately recognized the lines I had admired in the Shields in the hulls of the small fleet of One Designs. Charlie told me the Shields was a successor to the One Design, and that they a lot in common. The One Design was designed in the 1930's as an open cockpit day sailer pretty much meant for one thing: racing. There is scant accommodation for comfort and nothing in the way of amenities, but this lends a spartan beauty to this 33 foot craft. There's no clutter, just hull, deck, sails, and rigging.

You get a sense of the bare bone quality of the cockpit. The cabin is empty other then storage.


Charlie generously let me take the helm for most of the trip while we all chatted and enjoyed the perfect late September afternoon. We couldn't have had better weather and there was a steady breeze to keep us moving along most of the time. Unlike most boats this size, there is no engine to rely on to take us home should the wind die down, so Charlie was mindful when the breeze let up briefly. Happily it picked up again soon.

Sailing the boat was cool. Most of my sailing has been on little centerboard boats, so sailing a large keelboat just feels like a whole other thing. There is a power and momentum that smaller boats lack and it feels great.


I was born in Rhode Island and spent part of many summers in Jamestown, an island in the middle of Narragansett Bay, as well as time on Cape Cod. Coming to Fishers Island was a neat opportunity to put some geographic pieces together. Previously, I could have drawn a map of the southern New England coastline in a generally accurate way, but now I have a keener sense of just how proximate eastern Long Island, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are. I love that sort of discovery.

Enjoying a little lunch on our way back

We sailed upwind to the vicinity of Latimer Reef lighthouse and then headed back on a run and had lunch. It wasn't too long before we were headed back into West Harbor. I've had times sailing where I just don't want to stop when the breeze, the light, and the atmosphere are just so--usually late afternoon-- and you feel like you could just keep going forever. I admit it was hard to let go of this day, but we had a schedule to keep and had to get back. Charlie took the helm as we returned to the mooring.


We had planned this trip some weeks earlier and I was aware that we'd be sailing a wooden boat that Charlie had put a lot of care and time into restoring but I hadn't clued into the specifics, so it was a treat to spend an afternoon on such a storied and amazing craft as this.

I should say too that I love sailing, but what makes sailing great is the company. It was wonderful to spend the afternoon with such generous and interesting folks.

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