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Sailing and Cigars







I went sailing for the first time in 2011. I haven’t sailed much since, but 13 years later, whoo-boy I still remember the feeling, vividly.


The majority of us had traveled to San Diego during a hard NYC winter. It was just after the holidays and we were rehearsing a new musical at The Old Globe in Balboa Park. It’s worth the google, I promise. But quickly, Balboa Park was built in the early 20th century as a contender for the World’s Fair, which ultimately went to Chicago. The dozen or so two story buildings are all in a baroque Spanish style, complete with an arboretum, Japanese garden, and even the famous San Diego Zoo.


“I feel like I’m cheating on my life,” Glenn said as we all biked to work in the sunshine. His family was suffering the wet cold in the Bronx. 


We rehearsed a solid chunk of the business day which left our evenings and some afternoons free. We’d catch one of the Shakespeare shows in rep, wander the expansive grounds, or just play games back at our somewhat dingey company housing. Being a part of this incredibly talented and experienced cast as a new transfer to musical theater and getting to work on this gorgeous music all while in literal Utopia, Glenn’s comment resonated more than he intended. 


On one of our days off, a crew member offered to take us all sailing. I’d never been, and a few of my castmates jumped at the chance, encouraging me to join along. We packed snacks and drinks, sunscreen and hats, and met him at the harbor. 


Seamus met us in a white linen shirt, holding a case of beer, and half a cigar hanging out the side of his mouth. Turns out he’d spent the better part of ten years sailing tall ships in the South Pacific, delivering medicine and supplies to a tiny, forgotten island with Doctors Without Borders. He sunk all his money into the NGO that serviced it, and when he’d spent his last dollar, came back home to San Diego to work crew for the Globe. Just like the old sailors had done in the past. 


We laughed that he not only looked the part, but probably was “the most interesting man in the world”. 


He assigned us jobs- Ed was in charge of the jib, Gina the food, and me, Etai, and Glenn divided up the rest of the lines. Will was in charge of music.


We spent the afternoon coasting, and pulling, releasing, and tying down lines, and eating more than we should while on bumpy waters. Seamus shared stories of storms in the South Pacific.


We arrived back on land completely inebriated. Not so much the beer- we’d not imbibed since we needed to keep our wits while working the boat. But we were drunk from the fresh air. Sunlight, saltwater, just the complete exuberance of spending an afternoon traversing the ocean, no motor, just wind and good conversation.


Over the course of the next few months, as we were in rehearsal and then during the run of the show, we would spend our Monday’s off sailing. We’d always return to port refreshed and delightfully exhausted, but it was never quite like that first time.


Luck would have it, I married a Naval Academy graduate. A sailor. Well, formerly. We live on the water at the Chesapeake Bay and honestly have no need for sailing. We kayak, canoe, and walk by the water. I might not sail again, but that stolen winter with (now life long) friends in San Diego was enough.


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