What were we thinking?
More specifically, what was I thinking?
Because I’m a writer, I kept a daily journal. The two older girls also kept journals. The 9-year-old wrote her own entries, but I recorded what the 7-year-old dictated.
You’d think we had taken three different trips.
What more proof do I need for the power of point of view (POV)?
My worries included (among dozens of ghastly catastrophic possibilities) the chance that one of the children would fall overboard. We made them wear
life jackets from the minute they emerged from the cabin until they went back down those stairs.
A16-year-old boy, a family friend, made the trip with us. Like most 16-year-old boys, he was focused on three things: (1) the desire to get behind the wheel of a car and drive (2) the progress of his tan and (3) eating.
He helped with docking, cleaning, engine-room
work and other heavy stuff. He turned out to be indispensible. We couldn’t have done it without him. But I had no idea how much food it takes to keep a teenage boy functioning. After many trips to the weird little grocery stores that exist near harbors, I finally caught on and started stockpiling cereal and sandwich meat.
My mother- and father–in-law joined us for one
of the early weeks and my husband’s business partner and his wife joined us for the final week.
The trip was a nightmare. From my POV.
We survived one minor disaster after another as
well as one major disaster. The day of our arrival, one of the girls slammed a hatch cover on her finger. The cut was so deep I could see bone. We spent a half
day at a doctor’s office getting stitches and shots and bandages. The doctor spoke Spanish exclusively, so we communicated with gestures and with the help of the receptionist in an adjoining office.
The generator broke. Stop, get it fixed. The air conditioning broke. Stop, get it fixed. Starter motor broke. Stop, get it fixed. Water pump broke. You get the picture.
Grandpa (a non-boater) was filling in as temporary pilot while my husband dragged the baby’s playpen from the back cabin up the stairs to the deck. Grandpa steered too close to the shoreline next to an inlet on the Intracoastal, ran aground, got stuck and lost one of the props. We spent a couple of days in North Carolina, where we had to buy a new prop and have it installed.
After a series of tearful meltdowns, I threatened to take the children and fly home. When it was time for my in-laws to go home, my mother-in-law kindly offered to take the baby with them.
It was tempting.
The baby learned to walk in spite of the unsteady terrain. The teenager ate everything that wasn’t wiggling or frozen solid. When we cruised past West Point one foggy morning, he was inspired. He eventually graduated from West Point Academy.
And when I recently re-read the two girls’ journals, I see they loved the trip. POV, again.
One daughter’s favorite memory was when Grandpa
went into the tiny V-shaped head (bathroom) which doubled as a shower. It was the middle of the night and – instead of flipping the light switch on -- he
turned the shower on himself.
Another remembers playing elaborate games with
Pet Rocks on the beach near one of the harbors where we docked.
We visited Williamsburg for a half day and
Hilton Head Island for a whole day. The harbor at Hilton Head has an 8-foot tide. When you leave the boat to go to dinner, you step directly onto the dock.
When you return, you have to descend 10 steps. We also had dinner at a fancy schmantzy country club in Charleston where the teenage boy set a new record at the buffet table with the peel-and-eat shrimp.
The children witnessed firsthand the process of going through a series of locks between the Great Lakes. They can also say they traveled the length of the New York State Barge Canal (formerly known as the Erie Canal). They saw the Statue of Liberty up close and personal and I have a photo of the twin towers taken from our boat.
We also survived the Mother of All Storms on
Lake Ontario. We set out one breezy, unsettled morning from Oswego, NY, headed for Toronto. The waves increased to six-footers, topped by angry foam. The wind, according to our anemometer, peaked at more than 55 miles-an-hour. While we were
navigating this particular nightmare, the main cabin began to fill with smoke and the engine room began to fill with water.
I was conscripted to pilot the boat while my
husband investigated the fire and the flood. The boat pitched and rolled as I fought to keep the bow at an angle into the wind. We all had our life jackets
on. One child was throwing up in a wastebasket. My mother-in-law, who was recovering from a recent mastectomy, had hoped the trip would be a time
for healing and resting. She was trying to be brave. My father-in-law was sitting on the deck cradling the baby on his lap with one arm, the other arm looped around one leg of the pilot chair to keep them both from sliding toward the stern.
I thought we were going to die.
No, I didn’t think we would die, but I thought we were going to be in the water and the boat would be a goner. My POV.
But the smoke was stopped. The flood was fixed.
My husband figured out what was causing both, which is another story. We made it – not to Toronto
– but to the Niagara River where we limped into our slip.
The inside of the main cabin was filled with
food that had spilled out of the refrigerator; pots and pans that had fallen out of the cupboards; dishes; books; charts; a TV set; children’s toys; and water. Lots of water. When the cabin is full of smoke, you open the windows even though water sloshes in, right?
Teenage boy, sweetheart that he was, said, “Mrs.
Smith, don’t go down into the cabin. Take the children for a walk. I’ll clean up.”
I loved that kid.
We made it home safely. We used the boat, happily, for about 8 more years, cruising Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and the North
The children loved boating and actually grew up to be responsible, well-adjusted people. I still have their
journals and mine.
Three totally different trips.
POV. It's all in the POV.