Friday, March 27, 2015

From the Pensieve - Memories of Dad - Installment 2

In early February of 2015, my father passed away. In preparing for our remarks at his funeral, my brother Carl and I began putting together short stories of our times boating with Dad. In the interest of preserving these stories, we thought it would be a fun exercise to share them here as a series of blog entries. Over the next several weeks, new installments will appear on occasion.

Today's entry is a guest post written by my brother Carl. 

The Dinghy 

Doug keeping watch on the crab lines
When I was a kid, my dad had a series of sailboats and eventually settled on a Coronado 25, naming it “Legato III”.  With Dad’s love of music and singing, the name Legato was a perfect fit – a musical term meaning smooth and flowing. Both my brother Doug and I can honestly say that we have been sailing since we were in diapers, with a total of over 100 years of sailing between us, technically speaking… And boy did we have a charmed life growing up boating. Overnight trips all around the bay with Dad and Mom, Mom prepping our sandwiches and iced tea before getting underway in the morning, Dad navigating us to all corners of the bay, us boys rowing the dinghy far out of sight of the mother ship at anchor (and we survived…), dipping crabs from the surface of slate flat water while motoring to our next destination, and sometimes overcoming adversity along the way.

Carl rowing the old dinghy with Fritz navigating
Oddly enough, the family dinghy in the early years was a 10’ wooden rowboat. Our 25’ sailboat, towing a heavy wooden dinghy, certainly lost a knot of speed in the process. The dinghy dated back decades, as the tender for my Grandfather’s 50’ yacht. So every year Dad would painstakingly scrape and repaint, repair, and replace. That dinghy gave Doug and I the freedom to explore many an anchorage and beyond.

On one trip at the mouth of the Chester River we were slammed with the typical fast moving Chesapeake squall line with 50 knot winds that whipped up 4’ seas. Mom, Doug, and I were down below hanging on, mostly oblivious to the struggle topsides, while Dad was motoring as fast as he could to duck into a creek for shelter. As we crested a wave, the dinghy painter snapped and he helplessly watched as it drifted away from the boat. He yelled “Carl, get up here, now!” I scrambled on deck, in the driving rain and wind, and he showed me what had happened and said “Put this life jacket on. I’m going to turn this boat around and get right up close to the dinghy. You keep this line in your hand, and when we get close enough you jump into the dinghy. Then weave the line through the stem hole and tie your best knot around the bench seat.”

So I’m 12 years old, and not knowing any better I went along with his plan. And damn if he didn’t get us there, I jumped, and tied, and somehow managed to get BACK in the sailboat - all still in 4’ seas and driving rain. But that’s what sailors do. Dad’s calm and determined demeanor was what made it seem like such a piece of cake. And I like to think that was a coming of age of sorts for me…

Alex and his friend enjoying the restored El Toro
Even though we saved the dinghy that day, soon thereafter Dad purchased an 8’ El Toro sailing dinghy. Being fiberglass and much lighter, it towed wonderfully. The sailing rig was put to use by all of us at anchor and around our home creek. The great thing about the El Toro is that after being in mothballs for decades, I just recently cleaned it up, re-rigged a few things, and it’s now used by my own boys. Not bad for a 40 year old dinghy!

Editor's note: Carl told a shorter version of this story as part of Dad's eulogy recently. Later in the day, at the wake, I asked Mom how long it was before she heard the story about Dad putting his 12 year old son into an unsecured dinghy during a thunderstorm. Her answer: "Well, let's see, Carl is 55 now, and he was 12 then, so that makes it 43 years - today was the first time I heard that story! We were closed up in the cabin, so I had no idea what was happening out there that day."
I thought that answer was really amazing.