The bar was flat, or seemed to be When we sailed out line astern with Denis's ashes. Indian was leading the line Reminding us that it was on Indian Where Denis crewed.
There were high cirrus clouds streaking our blue ceiling But down below on the blue water There was a slight breeze out of the northeast Blowing the Sea Rescue flag But not much else.
We were behind Spray, my old boat. Denis knew Spray well. He had helped me replace the engine mounts. Chuckled when I came alongside. "Make sure you don't dint the houseboat."
Then he got about the job with methodical ease. Raising the engine with a thick plank. Working in the confined quarters of Spray's stern Placing the new mounts where they could do the most good And lowering the engine with the care of a parent with a new baby.
Spray was bouncing about on the bar. Tossed by the compression waves of the run out tide. Spray sometimes did sail like a cork. We went out at low water to give ourselves time To spread the ashes and race.
I was never comfortable about going out at the bottom of the tide. But Denis understood. It was safer to go out when the tide was emptying itself into the sea And return on the flood. That's what Denis had told me and he was right.
I had been an armchair sailor for many years. A close reader of sailing books often written by cruising sailors With little experience of river bars. Now Denis was crossing the bar for the last time. Much like Tennyson's poem of the same name.
I wonder if Denis knew those grand lines? "Twlight and evening bell And after that the dark! And may there be no sadness of farewell, When I embark."
We were not on a twilight passage. The sun shone in a brilliant Pacific sky. The fleet worked its way to Bird Rock With its crown of guano And perch smooth face.
How often had Denis manned his place on the sheets Ready to work the winch while Indian stiffened As Les brought her up into the breeze To make the mad dash for the line And avoid the other yachts.
Sometimes it was a close run thing. Bow to bow with anxious looks to the other boats. Some quiet cursing from the helmsman And even loud shouts as skippers and crew Suddenly faced the danger of a sea collision.
Denis always kept his cool. Quetly going about his business Clear eyed and ready to move At a moment's notice Depending on the skipper's orders.
Now he was ready to return to the rock. Bird Rock with its almost pyramid symmetry Poking out of the sea and greeting the fleet Once again with a stern and solitary warning Don't come too close.
Indian kept her distance. The serivce words were spoken over the fleet radio And the ashes were scattered. The fleet released one white flare for each boat A cloud of white smoke drifted on the breeze.
Denis's spirit drifted with that smoke Softly rising to another place Reaching those upper limits Where peace and harmony Live together like a sheet and sail.
Goodbye Denis. May it be smooth swailing from here on.