I hadn’t been sailing in ages, it seemed. And I probably wouldn’t get out on the water anytime soon. Then an afternoon commitment fell through. The rain clouds cleared, but the wind remained, so I grabbed my youngest boy and headed to the river.
Maybe it wasn’t fair to bring Pippin out on Row Bird with such strong winds, but it didn’t seem like a bad idea either. Keith was out there, darting around in his Scamp. If he could brave the weather, why couldn’t I?
Before we’d made it a hundred feet from the dock, Pippin was starting to look a little green, staring down at his feet. Seasickness wasn’t what I’d had in mind when I envisioned our a father-son outing.
“Pippin, come sit over here and take a look at those houseboats in the distance,” I suggested, as we rowed through wind-chop and a rumbling wake. I was having fun, but I sensed that when the boom started swinging overhead, he’d announce that it was time to head in.
Using all my strength, I rowed us into the lee, but it was still a challenge to get the boat ready for sailing without losing ground. Pippin scurried about, tugging on lines, extending the centerboard, and finally grabbing the tiller. As I pulled up the mainsail, a crinkling, thrashing sound roared through the air. People react one of two ways to this sound: with fear or excitement. Pippin winced as if the sail might flog him, while I only heard the sound of exhilaration. Still, I couldn’t quite banish the little smoldering of fear that settles in the pit of my stomach on these occasions.
We sailed a little, though we didn’t make much headway, despite the wind. Then a motorboat stopped to ask if we needed help. Did we look that bad? I glanced over at Pippin; he certainly did.
I must have raised a real stoic. Pippin never asked if we could go in; but after sailing a few more minutes, he didn’t say anything at all. If we stayed out much longer, I might need to clean the inside of the boat.
When I brought the Row Bird back to the dock a few minutes later, I realized that this had probably been my shortest sailing trip ever. When his foot hit land, Pippin regained his normal color.
“Maybe going sailing today wasn’t such a good idea, eh Papa?” he chirped as we drove away in our smooth, quiet car.
It was my turn to be silent, because I knew he was right. But in the end it had been a good father son trip after all: we had each made a discovery. He could face his fear of a windy day without giving in to it and I learned that to be a good captain, you have to take cues from your crew.