This year I had one of those milestone birthdays that seem to crop up with more and more frequency as you get older, and to celebrate, My Companion took me and a few friends out for a sunset cruise on Pleasant Bay. Well, he hired a Captain Bob, who had a boat to take us out on. If we owned our own boat, we'd go out on Pleasant Bay more than once a year, and then a birthday cruise wouldn't be such a treat, would it?
But a treat it was. The temperature that day had been something like 90 degrees Fahrenheit in South Orleans, and the percentage of humidity in the air had felt the same. But out on the water – in which I suspect the humidity was close to 100% – there was a merry little breeze, and as the sun sank below the fringe of trees behind us, the temperature dropped to a pleasant 76. We putted along through the channel, past little green buoys marking our way and sailboats bobbing gently at anchor, cormorants balancing atop their masts. Captain Bob told us the water was six feet deep, and its temperature was 84 degrees. Fahrenheit.
We broke out the Prosecco – poor Captain Bob had to decline a plastic cupful, since he was driving – and toasted me, for being another year older. Then we toasted all of us, including Captain Bob, for being alive in the world and out on a sunset cruise.
We ate little segments of the giant Italian sandwich I had made that morning and that had sat in the refrigerator under a cast iron pot and a sixpack of beer the rest of the day. It had turned out okay, all mashed down into a flat thing that held together pretty well with the help of toothpicks. I had found several recipes for these mashed sandwiches on the Interweb; I liked the looks of Martha Stewart's recipe, but she insisted it wouldn't be good enough unless I roasted my own red peppers, so I went for a recipe that said red peppers out of a jar would work perfectly well. I stopped roasting my own a couple of milestones ago.
Captain Bob kept up an informative commentary on the homes of the wealthy we saw along the shore, and pointed out the conservation land where I have monitored Kemp's Ridley terrapin nests, and Paw Wah Point, where I walk my dogs after the summer people have departed in the fall. Now and then a sleek wet head would rise out of the water in front of us, then disappear underwater again: gray seals, checking us out.
The sun sank behind the trees, and after a while we turned back toward the dock, having gotten what we'd paid for. A flock of tiny sharp-silhouetted birds skimmed the surface of the water nearby. "Red knots!" Captain Bob said. Then, higher in the air, there was a flock of terns. We broke out the birthday cake, which I had made myself, as is my custom, and carved up into little squares suitable for dining aboard a boat.
I put a couple of little squares of cake into a cup for Captain Bob to enjoy later. I would have poured him a cup of Prosecco, too, but there wasn't any left.
Afterwards, My Companion told me he'd thought it was kind of boring. But I told him that even though we saw no sharks it was the Best Birthday Ever. I tell him that every year, and it's always true.