Green Sailor


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?

Green diagram The plan was to row from the boat ramp, duck out of the wind behind some house boats, hoist sail, then blast around the river like two riders at a rodeo.

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.

scared green

“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.

flag 1
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.


3 thoughts on “Green Sailor

  1. I think all of us boaters have had that learning!Taking care of the crew is almost as important as taking care of the boat if you want successful outings.

    I love that you drew Zephyr into that picture besting current and windd. Man can she point!

    I’m glad to have met you that day!

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