Celebrating the longest day of the year

By Geri L. Dreiling

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” — Henry James

The summer’s gift of extended daylight is cause for celebration. The sky is painted blue and streaked with wisps of white. Nature responds. Daylillies explode into joyful, inverted exclamation points of yellow or orange. Trees drape themselves in leaves of green. Bright red cardinals rejoice at dawn with their distinctive song.   

The longest day of all is known as the summer solstice. Once marked by festivals and fun, it has been largely forgotten as we’ve embraced the light bulb and turned away from the sun.

But not everyone has abandoned the tradition of honoring the day. Sailing associations throughout the world have adopted it as their own and dubbed it the Summer Sailstice

Boat Dock

This year, the Summer Sailstice was on Saturday, June 21. I marked the occasion with my parents at Pickwick Lake in Tennessee, serving as a crew member aboard the Three Pence III, the sailboat my parents have owned since I was a teenager. Three Pence is a loose translation of our last name, Dreiling. The III comes from the fact that it is their third boat with the name.

Three Pence III

Three Pence III

The Pickwick Sailing and Cruising Association planned the event that we joined. Boats rendezvoused near the mouth of Yellow Creek around noon then paraded on the lake for a few hours.  

heading out

Flag off the stern

main and jib two I will admit that I was a rusty deckhand. As a teenager, I nimbly scampered all over the boat. But my sea legs have long since floated away.  Now, I am more cautious. I held the mast tightly as we got ready to raise the main. I gripped the lifeline firmly as I made my way toward the bow to check on the jib.

But for me, there’s still something unique and special about sailing. Without the drone of a motor, you can hear the waves slap against the boat’s hull. You can heed the flap of the sails as the boat comes about. And you can spend an entire afternoon talking.


boats passing

my inspiration Even after we returned to the dock in the late afternoon, several hours of light remained. The Pickwick Sailing and Cruising Association had planned an evening barbecue at Grand Harbor. Steve Hopper and the Wolf Island Band would be on hand to play beach, summer and sailing music.

Sailors gathered near the Grand Harbor pool. They talked about the wind that day. They talked about their boats. They mentioned the places they called home when they weren’t out on the water.

By the time I left the barbecue with my parents, the sky had not fully faded to black. The music continued to play and many sailors still lingered, enjoying the fellowship and fun.

It had been a long and wonderful day; one of those rare perfect days when life feels just right.

Even though the summer solstice has passed, there are still many long days of summer left to enjoy. How will you spend yours?



 “Then followed that beautiful season… Summer….Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape, Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow