(Originally published at HowardYachts.com)
“A picture is worth a thousand words”? Maybe for an introduction, but the rest of the story is going to take a few more to give it justice. So for the sake of brevity and to give you a fighting chance at reading to the end, I’ll have to cut it short.
The top photo is from 1967. Pictured is four-year-old me driving my Dad’s boat under his watchful but smiling eye. The boat was a 1946 Chris-Craft Sportsman which deserves a blog tribute of its own. The bottom picture of me driving my own boat, at the same location, was taken some 32 years later.
Boating. It’s the constant that has been with me from the moment the top picture was taken until now. It is my life’s unbroken thread that has defined, to a very large degree, who and what I am. How do I describe in words what it means to me? I really don’t know. So I’ll just start.
When my dad introduced us to boating it was a precious gift for which I’ll be forever grateful. I’d like to think I didn’t take it for granted back then, but I probably did. When we’d go out on a warm summer’s morning soon after sunrise to a quiet cove, anchor in clear, shallow, sandy bottomed water and eat blueberry flapjacks pan cooked over a charcoal grill, did I pause to appreciate that moment? No, I don’t suppose I did. But let’s forgive the four-year-old. Let’s look now to the 57 year old who remembers that moment, and treasures it. There are dozens of childhood memories like this that I can recall and doubtless hundreds of others that, to my regret, I can’t.
My dad introduced us to sailing, too. We had an Alcort mini-fish, little sister to the Sunfish. Like so many other things he was thoughtful about, he probably figured the massive Sunfish, with its majestic, sprawling cloud of sail was a bit too much for his eager but neophyte sons to handle. So Mini-fish it was. I think I was about 8 when I learned to sail that boat, with Dad of course at first, but then solo. What a feel of accomplishment it was to right it after capsizing. Not on purpose at first, but later, repeatedly and gleefully. I was just heavy enough standing on the centerboard to make her slowly rise and settle back on her lines with a splash as I clambered back aboard, soaking wet skin squeaking over the smooth white gelcoat.
In retrospect part of my gratitude for this gift stems from being exposed to powerboats as well as sailboats early on. It taught me something I’ve known for years but wasn’t able to articulate until getting older: Being on the water is where the magic is. It doesn’t really matter what kind of boat you’re on.
We were taught not only to ‘hand, reef, and steer’, but to care for the boats my Dad owned as well. I remember lots of cleaning, sanding and staining. And cleaning. Being the smallest member of the family, I was the only one who could ‘comfortably’ get in the bilge to wipe up around a 1929 engine that liked to ‘throw a little oil’ from time to time as Pops would say.
And so life went on and in a blink of the eye that kid went to college and joined the Marine Corps. Over most of next 20 years I owned a boat and trailered it between duty stations. I got to experience pleasure boating on both East and West coasts of the US. While stationed in Hawaii, for a case of beer, I became part owner of a beat up Hobiecat that we beach sailed on the Windward coast of Oahu. During shipboard deployments I criss crossed the Pacific ocean, witness to the incredible power of the sea.
Then I ‘retired’ from the Corps and started a new career. Now, in truth I’m still that kid in the top photo, just in an older body, helping clients get to that magic place – the water – and thus create the best memories of their lives. I’d rather do nothing else.