A Hen and a Cat go Messing About

Last Sunday, Sassy (Sassy Gaffer, but just Sassy for her inner circle), participated in a messabout.

The term “messabout” seems to have originated from words originally uttered by a rat. In Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows“, while Mole and Rat are rowing together, Rat says:

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

“Messing about”, once contracted and substantivated, became “messabout”, a word often used to identify a gathering of small-boat enthusiasts “simply messing about in boats”.

In “The Wind in the Willows“, Rat is an antropomorphized British water vole, who, had he been in Canada, his name would have likely been “Muskrat”. Which brings to mind another boat trip in another time and up another river, with “muskrats” and “a quasi-teenager”: (https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/sail-cruising-the-ottawa-river-between-lac-deschenes-and-chat-falls-in-the-early-2000s/), a boat trip that, sixteen years ago started at the very same anchorage where this messabout was about to take place: Aylmer Island. The call for this event had come from Kirill Lisovskiy, who together with Natalia Belaya run the “Ottawa Small Boat Mesabout”: http://www.workingsail.com/messabout/index.html.

After five hours of tacking upriver following the caprices of undecided winds, Sassy finally anchored south of Aylmer Island, amidst a growing number of boats of every kind and colour. She had sailed out of Graham Harbour together with Bay Hen. However, they seldom crossed each other’s wakes: Bay Hen favoured a route close to the Ontario shore along Crystal Bay and Shirley’s Bay (quite appropriately for a “Bay Hen”), while Sassy (a SunCat) preferred to sail in mid-river, as she never has ventured SW of the green lateral markers in Lac Deschènes. (A Hen and a Cat sailing together out of Graham harbour – an inevitable parallel with Mole and Rat rowing together in Grahame’s classic, quite appropriate for a messabout).

Eventually they both anchored near each other facing the small beach in Aylmer Island. Sassy’s “French toy” (the venerable Bic Sportyak II) was used to row to shore, while Bay Hen deployed a wind-inflatable ultra light dinghy: using a bag literally filled with wind Kirill inflated and then paddled a bright-orange Klymit Lite-Water Dinghy (LWD) to shore. Two other boats then joined the messabout: the unsinkable (or was it “unthinkable”) “Phoobar”, an appropriately named 12-foot Shellback Dinghy sailed by Mark and Louise, and a bright red trimaran (a 12-foot PuddleCat?), superb as also was Don’s textbook manoeuvre to stop the boat just a few feet from shore after she fast approached the beach on sail.

Other boats were expected but past 4:00 PM it was already time to start back to port. The wind had picked from SSW at steady 10-15 knots and the return was in a single tack at close-reach. At an average speed of half her hull-speed Sassy crossed Lac Deschènes in less than two hours. She and Bay Hen arrived at their docks at the same time.

Had Hen and Cat not been able to return that fast, it would simply not have mattered because, as Rat goes on to say in “The Wind in the Willows“:

Simply messing… about in boats — or with boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.”

Here are some pictures on the event (click on the picture below for the link):

IMG_5453 (1)


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