Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did!

January 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Capt’n Mike and I dreamed during the frosty winter about a boating adventure aboard our trailered 17-foot Siren, Katie. We would have our first overnight trip with the boat, accompanied by our nine-year-old and seven-year-old kids. A handheld GPS had been Capt’n Mike’s Christmas gift (a real budget breaker), and I had read the manual, so we thought we were good to go.

Ever the safe sailor, Capt’n Mike had replaced the trailer tires, ball bearings, and electric connector, so we arrived at our destination safely, with four days’ worth of camping gear, food, and supplies — a military operation if ever there was one! The weather was overcast, but there were no whitecaps, so we launched the boat.

My planned strategy was to go below, get a snack for the kids, and organize things so that when I re-emerged on the deck, we would be at the dock. I retreated to the cabin, leaving Capt’nMike smiling, squinting at the chart, and frowning as he pressed lots of buttons on the GPS. I had just cracked the straw hole of the first juice box when I heard, “Coll, I need you on deck.” Drats! I couldn’t be just mommy on this trip — I was crew, too. As I entered the cockpit, I heard Capt’n Mike say, in a voice that sounded frighteningly similar to Scooby Doo, “I am not really sure where we are on this chart.”

My career as navigator had begun, and after a few minutes and a few expletives, we were heading in the right direction. The odd Blue Heron sounded a trumpet-like call above us as Capt’n Mike and I looked longingly at the scenery. However, the beauty of the moment ended with an abrupt inquiry from the Captain, asking, “What is the symbol on that red and white buoy, and what color is it?” Oh, no! (This seems like as good a time as any to mention that I am hopelessly colorblind and need glasses to see any distance.) In the seconds it took me to adjust the binoculars and say, “It is a diamond with a word, and it is either red or green,” the boat ran aground.*

*The rock we hit was clearly drawn on page 281 of the cruising guide that would be Capt’n Mike’s Christmas gift the following year.

My husband had become captain for a variety of reasons, including his cunning boat refurbishment skills, his knack for applying duct tape to almost any nautical issue, his ability to weld and fix the boat trailer, and, most importantly, because he said so. Thus, when we ran aground, he was in charge. “Coll, jump off the boat and push us off the rock!” he commanded.

Really? Luckily, my rage and trepidation deafened me so I could not hear the snickers of the onlookers from the not-too-distant shore (though they likely intensified Capt’n Mike’s shame). I hopped off the boat and into the shallow water, summoning my maternal might to push Katie off the rock.

I couldn’t take too big a bow for saving the day, as I attempted a clumsy and comedic climb onto the boat’s stern without the benefit of a ladder. Somehow, Mike set aside his shame and found camaraderie with the laughing locals watching me slip and fall. There was no boarding hug for me from Capt’n Mike, just the barking of more orders, as he continued to sit at the tiller. “Now Coll, when we get close to the dock, I want you to jump off the boat, catch the line as I throw it to you, and make sure the bow doesn’t get damaged.”

Really? Of course, it was hard to make out what he was saying because my daughter was simultaneously announcing that she needed to pee while her brother made exaggerated sounds imitating rushing water. I did leap onto the dock just as Capt’n Mike threw me the bowline. I held it tight and stretched out my arm to keep us from hitting the dock. Capt’n Mike tied off the stern, lifted each child off the boat, and disembarked. We had arrived at our first adventure, but all follow-up boating trips would find us better informed and well prepared for navigation and accident avoidance, along with a plan for sharing the duties of parents and voyagers.

By Colleen Ellison-Wareing

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