Because you're able. Isn't that the only reason for doing anything?" Dyce
convenient, don't you?" Dyce asked. "For you, that is."
Members of a yacht club all these years..."
There was a tone
in Samuelson's voice that could only belong to a man who had never seen a yacht
club in his youth, never seen a sailboat at close range, in fact, until he was
middle-aged; a man who had stepped on a boat for the first time when he was 40.
But the boat he first stepped on was a Monitor, and it was his own. He had
bought it over the telephone from a newspaper advertisement, knowing nothing
more than just that—that it was a Monitor, and that Monitors were the finest,
most expensive and competitive racing boats on the Sound.
It happened that
there was no other way that he could have bought it. Ever since the class was
founded its members had been limited to a small number of gentlemen of one
type, which certainly was not intended to include anyone named Samuelson; and
no Monitor had ever been advertised in a newspaper or anywhere else. Nor would
one have been, but the year was 1944 and the class, left shorthanded and
shamefaced by the war, had stopped racing for the duration.
bought the boat in the fall and sailed it throughout the following summer, with
any youngster from his club as crew (but never with an adult), learning alone,
the way he learned everything. No one in his club understood why he wanted a
boat so big—33 feet overall, 21 feet on the waterline—so big, but as delicate
to handle as a birchbark canoe. The next year when racing resumed and he went
out every weekend and was beaten, no one understood why he wanted a boat in
which it was so easy to be disgraced. But, then, his club had not been a yacht
club in anything but name until that day when he answered the newspaper
advertisement. Men who raced Monitors belonged to far fancier yacht clubs than
Samuelson's, and none of its members understood anything about a man who would
buy such a boat.
So every weekend
Samuelson raced his boat, smiling deprecatingly at the skippers from the other
clubs, as if asking them to overlook his presence on the water. They did,
because it was easy to forgive a man who could be so badly beaten 40 times a
summer. A few seasons later he was in the middle of the fleet standings. By
then it was even easier to forgive him, because he had made it clear that he
would never hoist a protest flag, no matter how flagrantly he had been fouled.
"I come out here to learn," he told the skippers of his class, and they
were so beguiled that they never stopped to wonder what it was he wanted to
So the years
passed, and the time for forgiveness was over. The other members of the fleet
watched his improvement, first with wonder and finally with admiration—for
themselves, not for him, that they could accept him so admiringly. Samuelson's
presence grew less noticeable, just as the tread on his sneakers grew less
obtrusive with each race, but now his smile was recognized as the modesty of a
man who knows that he faces his inferiors. After eight years only three or four
members of the class could equal his record, and only Trevor Hunt, who had been
winning yacht races for 50 years, could leave the mooring with the reasonable
certainty of beating him.
the tiller. Straight ahead, they could see the buoy in the center of the Sound
and the committee boat that would start the race, but there was not yet another
racing boat in sight. This was no day for novices. The few oldtimers who showed
up would come as late as they dared, to shelter their crews and even their
equipment as long as possible. As Samuelson put the boat on a broad reach,
easing the sails to take the strain off them, Dyce lifted a floorboard and
began pumping bilge water overboard, crouching near his father's feet to do