Moving Moxie by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Twice a year, I help my friend Iffy move his boat, Moxie. She’s a 32 foot Halverson “Gourmet Cruiser,” but when we move her, the gourmet part is limited to deli sandwiches, chips and salsa, and a couple of beers. In the spring, after Moxie is unwrapped like a leftover Christmas present, we move her from her winter home at Tolchester marina and cruise her back to Chestertown where she spends the gentler months tied up at Iffy’s dock. Then, usually in mid-November, we make the thirty-plus mile journey in reverse. I’d like to think I was an important member of Moxie’s crew, but truth be told, my onboard responsibilities are few. It seems my job is to sit in the bow and enjoy the view, but at some deeper personal level, I feel like maybe I have a small part to play in the rhythm of the river.

Come to think of it, that’s no small thing. I spend part of every week over on the Western Shore in Washington. When I’m there, I drive to work in the morning and return home in the evening, a short, easy commute by big city standards. But, unlike my semi-annual river cruises with Iffy, there’s no real rhythm to it; I’m just a cog in the big urban wheel. I go from A to B—I’m destination bound—impervious to the journey which (as we should all know by now) is the most important element of any travel, no matter how routine or mundane. Over there, any semblance of rhythm is quickly drowned out by the clutter and clatter of city life and more’s the pity.

But here, in Chestertown, I hear, see, and feel things that go unheard, unseen, or ignored on the other side of the Bay. Honking geese in flight; a tree line in autumnal splendor; a nighttime sky filled with stars; the movement of the tides up and down the river. In a phrase, I feel closer to God here and I don’t mean that in any mawkishly religious way. There’s just less separation here, less separation between what is natural and what is fabricated, between what is eternal and what is ephemeral.

The trip down the river and up the Bay takes about four hours depending on wind and tide. We take our time, partly to save fuel and partly because we savor the ride too much to hurry. Old friends roll by: Southeast Creek, Quaker Neck Landing, the mouth of the Corsica, Comegy’s Bight and Langford Bay, Grays Inn Creek. Once we round the tip of Eastern Neck and pass Love Point, there’s more chop and heavier traffic—big ships bound for Baltimore, Wilmington, or Philadelphia. Just north of Rock Hall, we turn east toward Tolchester, the hum of the engines throttling down to dead slow at the entrance to the marina.

At the end of the day, much as we might wish otherwise, moving Iffy’s boat is just another transaction. Moxie will get winterized and spruced up so when we pick her up in March or April to make the journey in reverse, she will be almost good as new. Friendship, however, is not a transaction. It is a journey without a destination and these semiannual jaunts with Iffy mark the journey of our lives like nuns in the channel. A lot has happened since we brought Moxie up in the spring, but it’s always been smooth sailing for Iffy and me.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

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