Once upon a time undocking referred to a boat pulling away from a dock, a ship disembarking from a pier. At Rosslyn we also use the term to describe the annual autumn removal of docks (and boat lift) from Lake Champlain once the boats have been hauled and we begin to prepare for the North Country winter. There’s also a more modern conotation in recent decades that summons grainy video footage of a spaceship uncoupling from the space station, or in a more quotidian context disconnecting technological devices or applications. For me today, in this post, undocking is all of these and more, a sort of metaphorical undocking, uncoupling, disconnecting as well.
Let’s start with those first two photos above. Before and after autumn dock removal. In the first, an early morning photo, I sent the drone up for an end-of-season portrait of Rosslyn’s waterfront. A moody moment as if the lake and sky and the forces of nature were brooding, perhaps wavering, second guessing this seasonal transition. Less than a couple of hours later the boatlift sits high and dry (just barely visible north of the cottonwoods and west the multi stem maple) and the docks are lined up on the beach, their temporary home until late fall / early winter when they’ll be moved up onto the grassy terrace.
This third image, an aerial view directly above the boathouse, dock, and boatlift, offers a better perspective of the waterfront before undocking. And the photograph below offers virtually the same view except that the docks and boatlift have been stored on shore.
Of course, before proceeding with dock and boatlift removal, there’s an important prologue, disembarking in the Nautique ski/surf boat and the Chris Craft picnic boat for the final time of the season. So last Friday we hauled both boats for the winter, and today we removed the boatlift and the docks. Undocking complete, we’re —metaphorically speaking, at least — one step closer to our big seasonal transit. We’re temporarily unmoored. Unvesselled.
In the spring of 2021 I sold a 31’ sloop that I’d sailed around Lake Champlain for seven seasons. In retrospect, I suppose it was one of my pandemic pivots. Although I’d been considering selling it sooner rather than later, I had expected to hold onto the sailboat for at least another year or two. I was contemplating a move to a larger boat, and I was beginning to wonder aloud with Susan if it might be time to start thinking about coastal sailing, a step toward blue water sailing that has long beckoned me. I’ve explored my rather sudden decision to sell Errant elsewhere, so I’ll curtail that narrative here. But I’ve brought it up for two reasons.
For starters, selling Errant was part and parcel of an ongoing period of transition with roots well before — but catalyzed during — the pandemic. But there’s something more germane to the present context.
Usually when I headed out to sail it was for a span of hours. Maybe half a day. If lucky, maybe a day. But sometimes, when opportunity allowed, I would depart for days instead of hours. On occasion Susan would join me. More often I sailed solo. And whether heading out for a few hours of wind chasing or setting off on a multi day sailing adventure, I would experience a euphoric wave as I hoisted the sails. An exhilarating wave simultaneously deep in my gut, high in my heart, and even higher in my head would sweep over me. A sort of high that would fill me with enthusiasm and hope and a profound feeling of freedom.
Helming 6-tons of home, vessel, food, and plans into a stiff chop and a swift blow is one of my “happy places”, as the saying goes. A plan and an itinerary but also a comfortable awareness that circumstances and conditions could shift unexpectedly, that sailing by definition presupposes a state of fluidity and flux from undocking (or untethering) to setting anchor or returning to harbor.
To some degree this euphoric state is present every time I set out in any boat, any journey, any transition. Our seasonal migration between the lush shores of Lake Champlain and the high desert southwest is one of these undocking rituals. A setting out. An ending. A beginning. Closure. A fresh start. A new adventure. Another chapter. Seasonality writ large…
But I’m digressing and meandering. Back to the present, to removing the boats and storing them for the winter, to removing the docks and storing them for the winter, to winterizing the waterfront for the coming cold, the snow, the ice…
The present undocking is even more significant for us than usual. Or at least I have the sense that it is more significant. As we navigate a period of curated liminality, I am especially conscious of the uncoupling. The untethering. Sometimes a simple, familiar seasonal ritual — falling out of summer and into autumn, undocking vessels and the temporary means by which we secure them — turns out to be an integral constituent part of a larger, more profound transformation.
This is what I see when I look at the aerial photographs above. It is an awareness, a conscious yielding to the change(s) underway. I’m confident that Susan and I are both attuned to this liminality, that we’re aware and willing to embrace the shift, to immerse ourselves fully into what is feeling like a monumental shift in the proverbial seasons. I believe that we’re in the flow in a way that has eluded us in recent years. In many years really. This present undocking and its various rhizomic permutations feels more significant than its predecessors. In fact, this undocking is increasingly reminiscent of our transition from Manhattan to Essex 16 years ago. It’s still early. And it’s still unclear what exactly were moving through, moving toward. But