A day on the water with a bag of Italians represents something of a culmination of our week here in South Freeport, Maine. Italians are to this part of the country what steak subs are to Philadelphia. We get ours from a local deli called Pat's, this particular version being a soft hot dog roll (known hereabouts as a "top-cut bun") sliced open and loaded with cold cuts, provolone cheese, thin strips of green bell pepper and sliced tomato.
Thus loaded, the Italian becomes a kind of open-faced sandwich. Tradition holds that before eating it you drizzle the filling with extra-virgin olive oil, which these days is provided in little foil packets (as opposed to the small plastic containers that sometimes opened and spilled inside the bag as you were transporting them home, a potential disaster and a story for another time...)
The point of sailing with Italians isn't so much the sandwiches, of course, as the journey. Italians immediately conjure up summer days from the past spent lolling around Casco Bay, landing on one of the small islands, finding a place to picnic--the sea breezes heeling the boat and stirring conversation, feet in the water and looking for purchase in the stones, scouting locations for the luncheon feast, climbing rocks, spreading napkins, oiling the Italians, guzzling beers.
So it was on this particular trip as we marched to the marina with our lBean bags loaded with sweaters and sunblock and potato chips, the several coolers prepared by Peter and jammed with sodas and water bottles and Becks and Pabst Blue Ribbon (the latter would be Peter's current favorite brew, Carling's not being available in Florida, where he now resides).
Originally we had planned to lunch on an island called Goslings, but Peter, who was ferrying the teenaged girls and the young girls in the Boston Whaler, reported over the radio that Goslings was too crowded (even on a Thursday afternoon) so we headed for the next closest island, Little Whaleboat.
The beach was perfectly deserted as we approached in the dinghy. The teenaged girls were already stripped down to their swimsuits with the younger girls scampered off to climb rocks and collect clam shells. We located a shelf of rocks with a good view and sufficient surface to spread out our victuals and there we settled in to devour our Italians.
It was a perfect place to create new memories over sandwiches, only the occasional squawking of the seagulls to break the silence, sailboats gliding past in the distance, Shannon and John discussing the small rock ledge out in the water they had encountered last week with the sailboat. "It isn't on the chart," Shannon repeated a number of times, as if to assure himself that he hadn't hit the thing on purpose.
Down on the beach, the teenaged girls were wading in the water. Finally, Isabella plunged in and swam slowly out into the small cove, bobbing up and down using her breast stroke. We watched, savoring our Italians, munching on Cape Cod potato chips and drinking our beers.
On the return leg, the breeze kicked up and now we were taking it off the starboard bow, rather than from behind, so it was more of an interesting sail, not the leisurely event when we'd had a light wind behind us. Shelly took the opportunity to read a chapter on sailing in Maine from Roger Angell's new memoir, he being the longtime sports writer for The New Yorker.
Mr. Angell has it right, we are pretty much just loafing out here in the water, we sailors. The lobster boats that we pass are doing true work. Somehow we got lucky and can simply enjoy this marvelous spot, the bay with its clean sea water, the fresh breezes, the pine-studded islands. We find all sorts of excuses for getting out on the boat--eating Italians for lunch being one. We hope not to hit anything lurking under the surface. Really, we are just city people who miss the outdoors, who want to re-live all the good times we've had on the water and most of all draw closer to the pulse of the planet.