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The Good Ship, ‘Nellie’ in ‘Navigator’

I like to boast that almost all of THE PRACTICAL NAVIGATOR comes from the imagination and is not copied from life. For example, the book is about two devoted brothers; I have no brothers. It is, partly, about a disfunction, alcoholic family. My family was warm, supportive and no one drank at all. And so on.

My study is full of Wandering Aengus memorabilia

But one critical entity – the lovely sloop, Nellie – is a copy, pure and simple, of a boat I owned and loved for 20 years, the sloop Wandering Aengus (named from the Yeats poem, The Love Song of Wandering Aengus). My wife Hilly and I spent a month or more a year on it – mostly in Maine waters – for over a decade and loved it with all our hearts.

Here’s a weird, wonderful story. Hilly and I more or less met on Wandering Aengus. But she had been on it before, when she was 9 years old, sailing in the English Channel. She and her family had been sailing in their small cruising boat when the weather turned a little scary. They headed into a small harbor but there was no more room to anchor.  A guy in what looked to them like a big sailboat, with an American flag on the stern, waved them over and invited them to raft up to the big boat, which they did. They went aboard the big boat and Hilary loved it. The cabin was big but cozy. Lots of varnish and creamy white paint. A working fireplace. Bookshelves. And safe.

Hilary in the companionway

Unbeknownst to either of us, I happened to own that very boat and renamed it Wandering Aengus. When Hilly came aboard, she thought she was falling in love with me. In fact, she merely had been falling in love, again, with the boat. But by the time either of us knew the history, it was too late. We have now been together for 30 years. Some boat.

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Chris Crowley

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