Most of the time on a charter sailboat is spent in the cockpit having conversation and running the boat. But sometimes people prefer a little privacy and prefer to go sailing on the bow to contemplate the zen of the experience. I find while chartering along the York River that friends and siblings like the bow for a private chat. 

In light winds, access is easily accomplished by walking up on either side of the boat. In brisker winds it requires going up on the high side, or windward side, to ensure safe passage. You lean into the boat so that if you trip you’ll fall onto the boat and not overboard.

One of the most famous photos of JFK was with Peter Lawford in August 1962 on the bow of a Coast Guard sailboat in Maine. This is from Life magazine.

Children on the bow present an interesting challenge. Boys like to impersonate Leonardo DiCaprio’s “King of the World” stance from “Titanic” at the pulpit, which is tricky. They run the risk of falling overboard because they’re standing up, leaning forward, and have their arms extended in the air without holding onto anything. At the very least, they should have a life preserver on before heading up.

We use the bow to deploy the spinnaker, a big puffy sail to run downwind. It’s inside a chute that is lifted out of the bow port and hoisted on a halyard to the top of the mast. It’s important to squat or sit while raising the chute and flying the spinnaker because it’s vital to keep one’s center of gravity low.

Entire families like the privacy of the bow because it’s quieter, and one can see and hear the lapping water better than while sailing aft. The whole family comes in really handy if we run aground. If all of them stand closely on the bow, their collective thousand pounds tip the boat slightly downward to allow backing off the keel by engine. I haven’t run aground in years, but it’s still a good thing to know. 

Finally, the bow offers an intimate location for couples to get some private time from family and friends. It’s a perfect place to propose marriage, as shown here by Gregory Eyler to Meghan Mannas. (She said yes). One challenge was to avoid dropping the ring, and he did just fine.

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