Bullseye Dreams

Submitted by David Burnham from Fishers Island, N.Y.

Bullseye Dreams

By David C. Burnham, reprinted from the Bullseye Class Newsletter, March 1999

The water was clear, clean, shimmering, sapphire. The sun, an orange ball rising among cotton clouds. The majestic mountain cast its shadow on the bay. I was sailing my bull’s-eye Querida across Suruga Bay, Japan, from Heda to Shimizu. Mount Fuji stood serene saying, “OK, I’ll let you do it today. Next time, you may have to placate me. You’ll never know win.“

Another time, I sailed out of the Aegean right up through the Hellespont and Dardanelles into the Sea of Marmara. I sailed amid the wash of huge freighters passing me at three times my speed, despite my eager spinnaker. Turks and Greeks, Russians and Norwegians waved to me as night descended. I pluckily kept going two nights and a day before a fresh southwest wind, and the next morning Querida and I entered the Bosphorus, forcing our way against the everlasting Black Sea ebb, hugging the shore past the minarets of Istanbul till we came to a tides cove near Emirgan. Next moment, I was rapping on my son Steve’s door: “Surprise, surprise!”

Some voyages are simpler, such as launching on Lake Champlain and putt-putting by canal to the Hudson River. Then, down with the current, past the old Dutch country of the van Rensselaer to the big city once named Nieuw Amsterdam. Then up the East River, through Hell Gate, and along the Long Island short to Orient Point, across the Race and into West Harbor, Fishers Island, at sunset, inching up to the home mooring on the final gasps of the evening breeze.

The last of these three scenarios might yet actually happen. The other two are simply illustrative of a Bullseye lover’s dreams. Querida can be snug in the barn, snow piled outside, but she travels with me in my imagination wherever I go, especially as soon as I see water.

Not that we have not made some challenging voyages. We’ve sailed twice to Block Island from Fishers Island. The first time we astonished a friend there who reported that the ferry had not run that day. Too rough! All I remember is the thrill of that broad reach in the stiff northerly and the little gnawing fear that the port chain plate would pull out or a clevis pin would break. Querida and I have sailed from Fishers to Rockport, Mass., three times to the Nationals, well over a hundred miles. Once a whale surfaced at mid-day while my radio was blasting the Emperor Concerto all over Massachusetts Bay, and I was getting my bearings by lining up the Prudential Tower with the Hancock Building.

We have made the 75-mile trip to Marion, Mass., from Fishers Island a dozen times, occasionally with a shipmate or at least another boat or two for company. One thing I have not done often, though it is always a cinch in my dreams, is sail throughout the night. I have a fear of hitting mysterious rocks close to shore, and I don’t like getting out in the middle of nowhere. I can imagine terrible things such as Querida getting guillotined by the towing hawser between a tug and its unlit barge. I am not nearly as brave in reality as I am in my sleep.

In the past I have written some practical suggestions for cruising in a Bullseye. I will do so again in due course when fantasy does not overwhelm me. For now I will just comment on the three pictures with which I am decorating this article. Two of them show life under the boom tent while safely at anchor on a cruise. The third tries to catch the helmsman’s joy as his craft races past Point Judith’s outer breakwater.

I suppose I will never extend the cuddy aft and make a plexiglass bubble of it with a hatch in the middle for my head and shoulders when I want to catch th air. But my hunch is that anyone who so rigged his Bullseye, with tiller and running rigging at his fingertips beneath the bubble, could depart eastward and stand a very good chance of sailing into Falmouth, England, two months later, greeted by the cheers of more normal people content with telly and sofa. If offered a bottle of champagne on such an occasion, I just might accept.

Dave Burnham (1929-2014) made his first Bullseye cruise under sail the first year he owned Querida, sailing her from Fishers Island, N.Y., to Marion,, Mass., in 1975. He also sailed her on more than one occasion to Bristol, R.I., to take part in the Rendezvous at the Herreshoff Marine Museum where he served on the Board of Directors.

The spaghetti is on the Sterno. Note, the cook’s right foot. Obviously, we are not stowed for underway.

Ready to tuck in for the night. During the day, the foam-rubber mattress and blanket are rolled up in a heavy plastic bag, stored in the forepeak.

Spurning the Harbor of Refuge, we sail outside the breakwater off Point Judith.

David Burnham in his Bullseye, Querida. Painting is by his friend and fellow Bullseye sailor Charlie Ferguson.

David Burnham in his Bullseye the year before he died, sailing from Dutch Harbor over to the Saunderstown YC for the 2013 Nationals.

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