In the spring of 1996 my husband and I bought a boat for all the wrong reasons. My father had left my mother and was staying with my sisters on Long Island. Having dealt with more than my fair share of their ongoing always unsettled relationship I decided to hunker down and try to let this wash over me. But I kept thinking that I had to help in some way, with my time, some money, something. So I spent the money and took up my free time with a boat. I can’t believe it but it actually worked! I was able to let the ‘grownups’ work things out by themselves. It was almost amusing to see my sisters dealing with the tensions, drinking and targeted snide nastiness that they had never experienced firsthand for any length of time like I had.
At first owning a boat seemed like it would be smooth sailing, but in a motorized way. My husband and I took a Coast Guard course together. We renamed our yellow boat Sunspot and went about buying color coordinated lines and oiling the teak. I grew up on Long Island with friends that had boats although no one in my family had ever owned one. I knew a bit about operating a boat on the open waters of a bay, I had no idea what was in store for us in trying to control an older boat in a busy, windy stretch of the tidal Hudson River.
There was lots of traffic on the river: massive barges being guided by tug boats thru the narrow channels of the river, large luxury yachts gleaming in the sun riding proudly right down the center of the channel creating uncaring wakes for the rest of us to deal with, and jet skies, so annoying, darting everywhere and looking nowhere a menace to everything on the water. We were buffeted by winds, pushed by tides and had to navigate around so many huge logs floating barely seen in the water that there was no gazing at the shore in what is supposed to be the most picturesque part of the Hudson. Our eyes were peeled for flotsam. The weather thankfully was not much of a factor. We went out once in a squall and though it was invigorating we decided that our little boat got lost in the waves and whitecaps and the lack of visibility to others was a potential problem.
Everything was pretty manageable but we had one major issue. We couldn’t dock the boat! So my very resourceful husband fashioned a strong hook on the end of a long pole that I would use to snag anything on the dock that I could. Then we would try to pull the boat close enough to secure some line from the boat or jump to the dock. It was comical beyond words. Thank goodness we were good sports and that we did not associate too closely with the boating set at the marina. I am sure we were the brunt of many a joke among that crowd.
Eventually we found a place we could go to that was ‘around the hook’ tucked into an inlet where there was no river traffic and where you could anchor for a bit. It became our ‘go to’ place on a Sunday before the swarms of families arrived and it started to resemble a water park. One Sunday we made our way around the hook on the glassy surface of the river and dropped anchor. We chatted for a while and then opened the Sunday paper. When we started to hear the sound of screaming children we looked up, it was probably time to go. But the world seemed a little off kilter. In the several hours that had passed, the tide had gone out and the tilt we saw was from the boat listing on the bottom of the river. We had to free ourselves and fast because with every passing minute the situation was getting worse, the tide was still going out. Again, my resourceful husband saved the day. By incrementally tossing the anchor towards deeper water and pulling, while I pushed on the river bottom with a paddle we made slow jerky progress. Finally we were able to float off the bottom and head home.
Soon after that we realized that it was easier and more fun to simply drive to the river, visit a restaurant or a park, enjoy the view and come home. The boat had served its purpose. My parents had relocated, together, out on the Island in a small apartment where my sisters could keep an eye on them from a safe distance. I don’t regret buying the boat; sometimes doing something for all the wrong reasons is just right.