Sailing Into the Sunset
Island Voices, Literary, May 2024

Sailing Into the Sunset

By Suzanna Leigh

Rich and Suzanna on Eli-Oh

My beloved and I had a “Qufi” wedding; I am a Quaker and Rich is a Sufi, so we combined traditions. 

We were married on the solstice, on the beach at Lincoln Park in Seattle, where friends from Seattle could find us easily, and friends from Vashon could simply walk off the boat and walk to the park. Jim Hauser officiated for the Quaker tradition of witnessing our union, and Khadijah, murshid (teacher) of the Rahaniat Sufi order, orchestrated the Sufi piece. The band played Turkish ilahi’s (songs celebrating Allah and the Sufi saints).

My son James sailed Eli-Oh, my little Catalina 27, up from Quartermaster Harbor and anchored it off the beach. After the ceremony, and after we had eaten our fill of the potluck generously provided by our friends, James rowed us out to the boat in our blue dingy. He took the helm while Rich and I enjoyed the super moon awash in sunset colors as it rose beside Mount Rainier. That night, we put James ashore and anchored in Tramp Harbor. Then our adventures began!

In the morning, when I looked over the side of the boat, I saw clams on the sandy bottom. Out came the lead line to measure the depth. We are a bit old-school; instead of a depth sounder we use a lead line, a line with a weight on the end, marked with knots every fathom (6 feet). When I felt the weight hit the bottom, I checked the knots. The water came almost to the two knots, indicating two fathoms. We were in ten feet of water. Not a problem; we only draw four feet, and the tide was already at its lowest. 

Rich rowed us ashore and we pulled the dingy up as far as we could. We stashed the oars in the dingy and tied the yellow painter to the bottom of a piling at the shore end of Standard Oil Dock, then walked the quarter-mile home for lunch. Several hours later, we came back ready to set sail. Problem: The tide had come way up. The dingy was afloat, out of our of reach, and about to be pulled under by the submerged painter. 

Luckily, our neighbor, Tim Bear, was way more limber than either Rich or me. He swung down from the dock onto the dingy and cut the painter, freeing the dingy. We replaced the line, and off we went on our first honeymoon together (now we take annual honeymoons, usually on the boat). As we passed Spring Beach, we were blessed by a dolphin. She swam around the boat two or three times, then headed off toward Camp Sealth, while we continued north to Blake Island for the night.

The next morning, we practiced sailing east of Blake Island with just the jib, while we waited for the current to change in Rich Passage. The current there can run faster than Eli-Oh can travel, so it was imperative to have the current going with us. Rich Passage is narrow in places, and the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton passes through there. 

Of course, it was in the narrowest place that the ferry caught up with us. I tried to raise the main for more speed and maneuverability, but dang! the halyard must have gotten tangled somehow! Rich finally got the outboard started, and we made a pit stop at Illahee State Park to untangle the halyard.

What a fine sail we had up the east side of Bainbridge Island! Until we spotted a big, dark gray cloud catching up to us, a squall for sure! We started the motor for extra speed and pulled alongside the little public dock, Keyport – where we had reserved a bed and breakfast – just in time. 

As I stepped off the boat and took one wrap around the cleat with the mooring line, the squall hit, with a gust of wind that would have pulled the boat out of my hands but for the cleat, and left my non-sailor husband, still on board, wondering what to do.

Our hosts met us at the dock and walked with us in the pouring rain to Garden View Bed and Breakfast, a block away. We spent the next day laying in bed, making love, and doing all the things newlyweds do. That’s when it hit me: O my God, we are married! I felt our energies click together in the way only a true marriage can do.

May 9, 2024

About Author

suzanna Suzanna Leigh is a long time island resident, writer, and artist. "I used to visit my parents, who moved to Vashon in 1969, when my father retired from the Air Force. One time when I came to visit, as a single mother with a four year old son, I stayed. I grew up an 'Air Force brat', living all over the nation and in Europe, but Vashon is the first place that felt like home.