Some 50 years ago, my grandfather purchased a Sunfish sailboat. In those days, my dad and his siblings sailed it on Long Island’s Little Peconic Bay. Nowadays, we keep the old boat on the shores of the Outer Banks of North Carolina and sail it on the Atlantic when the summertime wind and surf are just right. A few years ago, a steady southern wind blew, and I sailed a reach almost perpendicular to the shore. I was sailing the 14-foot boat solo, and the wave pattern was tricky that day, requiring constant focus. Thus, I was oblivious to what was developing behind me, back ashore.

After a half hour or so, I came about and looked back up at the western sky. The afternoon thunderheads were rising and expanding so quickly it was as if Mother Nature was dispensing a giant can of Reddi-wip. I wondered aloud if I’d beat the storm back to the beach. About halfway back to shore, the lifeguards had already cleared the beach of the day’s sunburned tourists. By the time I reached the breakers, the wind whistled and the thunder boomed, but I managed to haul the sailboat onto the beach before the worst of the storm arrived.

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