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It was still cold when I crossed the bay in the dark. I listened for the gulls but there weren't any yet, and then I came to the entrance marker and started down the marina channel standing up in my bass boat, looking for a transom reading Sarah. Everything was quiet in the early dark, with the water black and flat, and I throttled the motor down as far as it would go and went as slow as I could along the line of big motor cruisers. I found the Sarah, just as false dawn was breaking, in the last slip on the left. Her outriggers went up and out like wings and the bright clothespins near the tops that held the trolling lines stood out like little red birds. The white nylon cords came down from the outriggers and billowed out and when I got closer the Sarah sparkled all over in white and brown and silver from drops of dew.
I picked up my old piece of oar and paddled into the dock, tied my boat to a piling and climbed up. Then I could see down into the Sarah's stern. It was wide and empty except for the chair turned to face the transom, and the deck underneath the white and silver fighting chair was polished like the top of a baby grand piano.
One of the doors to the main cabin was open and I could see a woman's leg in pink silk pants and a foot in a satin slipper, so I tentatively called down.
"Good morning, Mr. Packard, please come aboard," she said, and I climbed down onto the railing and then to the deck and stepped into the main cabin.
It was big and open like a living room, with windows on two sides and glass doors and a carpet, and the woman was sitting in a rattan chair. She had a saucer with a cup on it in her left hand.
"I'm Sarah Cunningham," she said and smiled.
She was somewhere between my mother and my grandmother with her hair a little longer than either of them. It was pulled back and tied with a pink scarf and she held the cup in a way so you knew that it was tea and not coffee.
"Please sit down, Mr. Packard. Would you like a cup of coffee?"
I said I would and sat down in a cane-bottomed chair. She brought me the coffee and I went into my usual panic. I can tie a barrel knot in 12-pound-test monofilament in the dark with a boat rocking, but I can't sit in a chair, hold a saucer and cup of coffee and talk to a lady without spilling it. It usually just goes into the saucer and then dribbles on my pants' leg from the bottom of the cup. I've even dumped the whole thing in my lap a couple of times, but Mrs. Cunningham held her saucer and drank from the cup the way Katharine Hepburn could in a hurricane.