At 16, my son is beginning to think that boating is actually ok. Sure, a motor boat or jet ski would be more exciting, but our fleet includes no gas-powered craft – nor is it likely to – so lately, sailing is an acceptable, even desirable, way for him to spend an afternoon… if there’s wind. (Rowing is still drudgery, to be undertaken only in order to maneuver from the dock to open water.)
Last spring Merry even got his own boat: a tubby Maine peapod with a sailing rig. Its black hull reminded us of a sleek marine mammal, so he named it Porpoise. Just small enough for the two of us to heave onto the roof rack, Porpoise now accompanies us down to the river sometimes, with Row Bird in tow behind.
Merry doesn’t take Porpoise out often (not compared to his boat-obsessed father, anyway), but he gets out there. And when he does, I sense a focus in him that’s rare during his life ashore. I can’t see his eyes, because he insists on wearing cool-guy, reflective sunglasses, but I can tell that he’s feeling in the moment, in charge of his own destiny.
Out there with him, I also get caught up in the moment. When the wind fills the mainsail, and the sheets tighten, my focus moves to the water ahead, anticipating the stray log or kayaker who may appear in my path– that is, until I remember that I’m here for Merry as much as for myself, and I notice that the smaller Porpoise has been left pretty far behind.
Part of me wants to let him go, not only so I can speed along, uninhibited, but because I want my son to feel the power of the wind, to learn to counter a swift current, to figure out how to respond to right-of-way situations. Instead, I usually circle back around, a little guilty for having forgotten about him, even momentarily.
But Merry is growing up fast. I know that eventually, he’ll be experienced enough, and strong enough, to be able to handle Porpoise under almost any conditions. Maybe even better than me. I just hope I’ll recognize that time when it comes, and allow myself to let him go.