As the daughter of a sailor, I’ve been raised to appreciate quiet time on the water. Yes, there can be the humming vibration of mainsail in a stiff wind. There’s breeze in your face and sun on your hair, the buzz of a centerboard and the glug, glug sound of wake churning behind you. What there isn’t is the scream of a motor or blow-your-face-off speed, where you can’t hear yourself think, much less hold a conversation without yelling. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with my dad were in the quiet of a day out on the water. In a sailboat, there’s time to think, time to be still. You can talk or simply enjoy the silence. You can sleep (and I often have) to the rocking motion, the sun warming your eyelids, the chink of halyards like bells overhead.
Of course, there are days with no wind, when you sit, parched, on the desert island that is your boat. Towels dunked over the side and wrung out on your legs are the “air conditioning.” By the time you finally give up and motor back in, you have sunburnt limbs and stiff muscles to remind you of the day. I remember one afternoon when my dad and his friend went sailing in a shallow bay near North Carolina. The breeze died suddenly, and the adults would not abandon their boats. But we kids climbed out and literally walked past our “sailing” dads back to shore. Sailors can be stubbornly hopeful, determined to wait for the next wind when others would have given up long ago.
For more than 20 years now, the Chicago skyline has been a regular part of my sailing memories. My dad moors his boat in Monroe Harbor from May through October, and we’ll often sail with friends throughout the summer. I’ve experienced the skyline in every light you can imagine: early dawn after sleeping on the boat, high noon with sun beating down, late night as building windows sparkle like thousands of stars against an indigo backdrop, or lit up by the colorful burst of fireworks. But my favorite time is sunset, as the glowing orb of orange seems to melt away edges of architecture. Individual buildings subside into a long Lego outline of purples and greys. Cotton candy clouds taper off in the distance. And a melon light touches tips of waves, contrasting deep aquas all around your boat. The painting above is a composite of a couple photos my friends and I have taken over the years. The painting was completed as a triptych, 3 panels, each 20″x24″. A detail below shows that melting effect I love so much. I hope you enjoy the painting as much as I enjoyed painting it!