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Nyack Sketch Log: Shipwrecked Friend

by Bill Batson
A friend, poet, photographer and sailor shipwrecked along the coast of New Jersey last week. His sister has come to his aid and established a go-fund-me page. In the blunt prose of urgency, I ask that you consider donating some money to return his sailing vessel and home, Evening Light, to the waves. In the more nuanced language of a sketch log, let me introduce our waylaid sojourner, David e. Bell.
But first, the facts: according to his sister Robin’s appeal, David’s sailboat hit the jetty at Barneget Bay. The Evening Light began to sink.  Fortunately, the Coast Guard arrived quickly and installed pumps and towed the boat to shore.  Sea Tow moved the boat to a shipyard across the Bay.
David lives on the Evening Light. His insurance is covering the hull repairs and David has been working persistently to clean and repair the boat.
The good news is the giant gashes have been repaired and she floats again!
The Problem: Sea Tow claimed salvage and charged $6,300 for the tow and the insurance only covered $1,000.  Ouch. (Hence the go-fund-me figure of $5,300)
The funds will be used to help David cover the expense of the Sea Tow salvage claim and the other losses he incurred (everything from the engines glow plugs to most of his socks!)
I met David through his sister, who as a climate scientist, and was the subject of a sketch log about Earth Day in 2013.  One day she saw me at my booth at the Nyack Farmers’ Market and said, “you should meet my brother, David.” These words, as mundane as they may be, have always been portentous for me.  They were uttered by Zev before I met one of my best friends, Jerry and by Tracy before I met the love of my life, Marisol.  They not only vouch for a person, but imply that you will meet a bird of your feather. Robin (Zev and Tracy) knew my flock.
Here’s how Robin described her brother to me recently:

David Bell was born in New Hampshire where he dreamed of building a sailboat to sail over the horizon.  He and I poured over the plans of boats together. We learned to sail Sunfish at our great aunt’s house on Nantucket. We tipped over a lot.

You could always tell a Bell family member because there was a camera around their neck… so there are not lots of picture of the family— lots of planes, flowers etc.

He studied film at Hampshire College. Boats were always part of his life — he proposed to his son Shane’s mom while flying a catamaran on the Long Island Sound.

In Nyack, he built a boat in his apartment and only managed get it out by cutting it in half. Living on the Evening Light has been lifelong dream

When I met David he was searching up and down the Atlantic seaboard for an aquatic abode. Evening Light, a Saturna 33,  pilothouse sloop was found in Nova Scotia. I was invited to crew her back to Nyack. A leg of the journey included the length of the Erie Canal, so the historian in me was intrigued, but I was in the grip of publishing my first book Nyack Sketch Log: Volume I.
Before David left to buy his buoyant bachelor pad, he was instrumental in helping me finish my book. Each week at the farmers market, before he purchased his quiche from Concklins and coffee from Mostly Myrtles, he would advised, cajole, opine and profess. While he mentored me, he wrote. He has since finished his third novel, Fly Fishing in Russia.  He has psyched me into keeping pace with his prolificacy.
Also while on land, before he gave up his apartment above Pickwick Book Shop, to ride the waves in between the Nyack Boat Club and compass points north, west and south, he helped found the River River Writer’s Circle.  There he helps writers do the extremely difficult thing that only writers do and that others talk about doing, but seldom actually do…write.
David fixes things like sentences, computers and engines.  David gives generously and unselfishly of his time and energy.  David, as a father to Shane, is an exemplar of those qualities embodied in the terms scholar and gentleman. David is now stuck just short of the current, in a lagoon after colliding with an immovable object where there should have been none, off the coast New Jersey. He is now seaworthy, but he’s waiting for a part to restart his stalled engine.
My drawing is of his vessel’s halcyon days in Petersen’s boat yard. Vessels that are designed to float are referred to as “on the hard.” when they are on the blocks above dry land.  No longer weightless and swift, they are cumbersome and sluggish.  At this point, David’s southernly migration is “‘on the hard.”
David would be the first to say that of there are greater needs in the world. He would argue that shoring up the floating studio of a poet and photographer is not at the top of the triage chart. But Robin and I and many others beg to differ.  I want to live in world that stops to aid the poet warrior shipwrecked on the Jersey Shore. Because when they come back from their voyage, plumbing the depths of human experience they share their catch and our souls are nourished:

The wind whispers to the boat, and the boat speaks through the wheel, point up, a little more, now down, follow that puff, there you go. An hour or so of this and even your thoughts go quiet and just drink in the world around you. The desert mirage like mirroring of trees, distant floating above their reflection with imagined sky between. The dome of the sky, white becoming blue, over head. The whisper of wind over feathers, osprey soaring somewhere under the blue. Even the fish are silent.

David e Bell from his blog And yes, the “e” is lower case, like e.e. cummings I guess.

Visit go-fund-me to help David continue his nautical and literary journey.

An artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Shipwrecked Friend”  © 2017 Bill Batson. Visit to see more.

The Nyack Sketch Log is sponsored each week by Weld Realty.

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