Some of the best memories I have of being a kid took place on a boat.
We always had boats growing up. Big boats, small boats, dinghies, inflatables… at one point I even remember a little Sunfish sailboat in my life. As a kid, you don’t realize you are making memories when you’re making them. It’s only now that I have kids of my own that I truly realize the quality time we spent on the water.
Truthfully, it wasn’t always quality, my dad yelled at us if we dropped things or jumped around like kids like to do. God forbid if you put a ding in the gelcoat… but those moments were less frequent than the smiles and laughter. However, we sometimes remember the bad more than we remember the good. But I’ve turned that script, and I often think back on the family trips we took on the boat. The entire family tucked into a 40-foot convertible. My sister and I sharing a stateroom, giggling into the night and creating games that we could play as she dangled her hand from the top bunk. The sound of water lapping the hull as we drifted off to sleep, often waking up to a new spot and a new adventure. Clamming, fishing, rowing the dinghy around… These things give you incredible freedom as a 10-year-old. I would walk a tidal flat for hours with nothing more than a bucket and a rake. Sometimes I’d come home with a full load of cherry stones. Sometimes I’d get stuck and have to figure a way out of the silty mud. Problem solving at its best.
My father has a very strong love of boats. He can just stare at a vessel for long periods of time, admiring the curves, the metalwork, the bright finish. But he doesn’t get out as much as he used to, and I had been giving him crap about not using his skiff. It sat next to his house for longer than a year. He’d wax it. He’d start the engine, but it was a lot of effort for him to get it to the ramp and launch it on his own. Something that he used to do effortlessly had become work. He tried to sell the boat at one point, but didn’t find a buyer. It continued to sit. I continued to bug him about it.
“Let’s take the kids out on the boat,” I’d say.
“We’ll see. I have some things I need to do to the trailer first.”
There was always something to do. A reason we couldn’t use it. This was broken, or that needed to be checked. That’s how it is with boats, if you leave things unchecked for too long, they’ll fail on you and potentially leave you stranded. After a while, I stopped asking. I could see it was making him a bit angry if I pried too hard. Then he offered me the boat all together. Told me to take it. I thought about it, but declined at first. I was afraid it would become a sore spot between us. I figured he wouldn’t be happy with how I took care of the boat. I knew I would never wax it as much as he would. (I have seen this man wax the windshield of his car.)
But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. It’s an 18-foot flats boat, and perfect for me and my family. I told him I’d take the boat, but again, he had a list of things to do to it first. This needs cleaning, that needs fixing… I thought he’d back out. And then a phone call (which I don’t often get from Dad)… “I bought a new boat. It’s smaller. Much easier to handle. I need you to come get the flats boat.”
All the worries I had about potential arguments or disagreements came flooding back, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. We talk more now than we have in a while. I had to have a bunch of engine work done to the boat and I think he’s very happy to know that it’s running strong and still has a lot of life left in the tank. This past weekend, we took our first family outing on the boat and it was fun. My wife liked it and Cooper, our youngest, went from being scared and holding his ears to having fun over the course of the day. We’ll have many more adventures on this rig and hopefully, some day down the road, my boys will hitch it up to their truck and put a few more hours on her.