Friday, October 28, 2011

Boating License

So my big accomplishment for the week is getting my boating license. It's not a big accomplishment, but it is something crossed off my list of things to do, so that's an accomplishment within itself. I grew up driving our 32 foot Chris Craft cabin cruiser that had not one, but two engines in it, and finally at 34 years of age I took my certification test and got "Vessel" added to my driver's license. I didn't need one as a kid learning and driving under the supervision of my dad's co-piloting, or co-captaining I should say. Here in Alabama, it wasn't a law to need a license when I was an early teenager operating my own jet-ski. But now it is and so it's been one of those things I have been meaning to do but continuously slips my mind in the everyday shuffle in life. Truth is, I haven't really spent near as much time on the river in a boat as I would like to until this summer. This summer I have spent nearly every weekend on the river and at a little island that fellow river-rats congregate to. Needless to say, it was a great summer and one that reminded me so much of my childhood as I watched my own children experience being on the river, driving the boat under Paw Paw's guidance and spending endless sun filled hours digging in the sand.

My earliest boating memories are on an old brown fishing boat with my dad and his fishing buddy Minor Jones. Though I didn't get to go often, being just a little runt of a child, I remember the treat of spending the day fishing, eating packed lunches of sandwiches and even enjoying the outdoor nature necessity of hanging my tail end off the side of the boat when a little girl had to pee. Now, as a mom of little girls myself, I can imagine what a selfless act this was of my dad to take me as I imagine I was just as busy as my own kids. I probably got on his and Minor's nerves just a bit and scared more fish away than helped to draw them in with not being near as quiet as anyone would have liked. Still, my favorite memory from the fishing boat adventures was that of the day I caught a pretty sizable fish and my dad and Minor got "skunked" as they say in the fishing world.

Our second boat was the 32 foot Chris Craft Cabin Cruiser I mentioned earlier. A beautiful wood boat from I believe 1963. However, when we purchased it, it was nothing but beautiful, but full of potential. You see before it became a part of our family it had been sunk, probably intentionally, but sunk nonetheless and in desperate need of continuous TLC. We spent the winter with it hoisted in the air on industrial cranes at my dad's employer's warehouse and give it all the tender loving care it needed replacing transoms, wood, vinyl and applying countless elbow grease in sanding and applying endless coats of polyurethane. At the end of the winter a friend came to hand paint the name "For Play" not for reasons that would be a continual joke around the river harbor of the name of our boat, but because my family were true bred woworkaholics and this boat was strictly for playtime.

This is the boat I grew up on every summer. I had all my spend the night birthday parties on, experienced loss when burglars targeting it a few times, experienced great pride in having what was on our city's Cedar River the biggest boat in the harbor and by it's make, history and beauty, one with unparalleled class. This is the boat I learned to drive at a young age, probably not the easiest one as it was powered by not one, but two car engines, but I didn't know the difference. You don't just push on one throttle, you drive controlling two. Both forward for regular forward, and learning to use one in different directions for turning. I remember the pride I felt as I could embark, drive and dock this massive creature with the skill of any experienced adult boat driver and now as an adult, I have learned my dad had the same pride in my capabilities as well.

After moving down to Alabama, for the sole purpose of being in a warmer climate where we could have our boat in the water year round, life got busy with building a home and less time was spent on the Chris Craft. However, I was shocked when I came home one day and had my very own jet ski on it's own hand cranked hoist under an upper deck of our pier. The next couple summers were fun filled as I spent my own time driving my own personal water craft. The only down side was the accident where a friend driving his own jet ski ran up the side, knocking me off and causing a little fiberglass repair my Kawasaki. As years went by I spent less time on the river and more time on the road and ending up selling the jet ski to help pay for my first car purchase.

Since then, my river ventures have been about one or two times a year and I honestly forgot how much I missed it. I forgot how much a part of me the entire river experience was, until this summer where I feel I re-found one of my first loves. The river, the waves, the hum of an engine, the riveting airborn feel of riding on a faster boat that seems to hover over the water rather than cut through it, the people you meet of all backgrounds, all professions, all different walks of life but are all connected on the level playing field by the bond of the river life. And in this summer I found that some things can only be explained through the peace felt sitting on the dock with the breeze on your skin, listening to the waves slap the hull of a boat. In that I found some much needed and forgotten peace, a solitude that was necessary to my sanity.

The Chris Craft of my childhood is now sold, the jet ski is gone, but there is now a relaxing pontoon that has replaced them with much less upkeep required of an antique wooden boat. So this summer I decided I was getting my boating license and would begin driving and mastering the pontoon boat that is available to me to learn on once again. No, I don't have a boat, but I will someday. Until then I will continue to spend as many summer days on the river as I can. Now, at least, I have the license that allows me to take control, have me ready when I do come across the boat that will someday be mine, and know that I have crossed something off my list of things to do and reconnected with my first love.

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