I was, nine or 10, living in Annapolis, Maryland. Yet, I still remember the crisp, blustery, sunny afternoon like it was last week. It was one of those perfect fall days that remind you how rewarding it can be to live in a four-season climate.
My dad was motivated by the stellar weather to practice a little carpe diem and take my brother, sister, and I for an impromptu sail on his well-preserved 26-foot Swedish-built Folk Boat. We spent a lot of time on that boat in the late ’70s creating memories that are still fresh today.
Yet this particular day remains burned into my brain more than others. Not because I experienced a magical time on the Chesapeake Bay, but because I decided to pass on the outing altogether! What was I thinking? For some silly reason—for the life of me I can’t remember what it was—I declined my father’s invitation and stayed at home while my family set off for a mini adventure. The fact that he didn’t make the sail mandatory reveals his “suit yourself you little turd” paternal style.
I was home clicking through all five available channels on a television set the size of a Mini-Cooper lying next to my rather gassy 75-pound basset hound, while high winds thrashed my family, burying the rail of that little Folk Boat as she sliced down the Severn River. Like any white-knuckle seafaring outing they returned exhilarated and full of tales. Of course I began to pout trying in earnest to find some interesting, memorable nugget from my day. I had nothing!
Perhaps the memory of the missed adventure is one of the reasons I’ve taken a page out of my father’s playbook and try to take advantage of every opportunity to spend time on the water or around boats. You just never know what little discoveries you’ll make or the interesting people you’ll meet—case in point, my last several days in Florida.
After the Palm Beach International Boat Show in March, I headed to Stuart, Florida, to spend a weekend clearing my head before heading over to the West Coast to visit a few builders including boatbuilding innovators Dick and Brad Lazzara. I had read Michael Peters’s column Sightlines, where he shares the tale of his boat-restoration folly fueled by boating nut Cadillac McDaniel. I had to see Cadillac’s operation, and man I’m glad I did—I think. There were classic Whalers, Bertrams, a stunning Forest Johnson Prowler, an older Donzi Hornet III, and my favorite, a Burpee 26-foot hull. It’s an unfortunate name for a very cool stout little boat that is still on my mind as a suitable candidate for my next coastal cruiser. Cadillac possesses an astonishing level of boating knowledge and I could have spent all day with him talking boats. (I may be back Cadillac. With my checkbook. God help me.)
On Monday I met up with Chris DeBoy and Ken Smaga from marine equipment company Vetus-Maxwell on their Topaz 24. It’s a fully restored and tricked-out ride intended to showcase the company’s equipment. We pointed our bow west and headed across the state to Lake Okeechobee with a very loosely formed plan.
We spent our first night at Roland Martin’s on the western side of the lake. What a cool place run by some the nicest people I’ve dealt with in a long time. Walking the docks we met a couple who were taking their 19-foot Wellcraft from Pine Island on the West Coast across to Stuart. “We just wanted to do it and have some fun,” said the affable gentleman from Michigan. And why not?
At the other end of the comfort spectrum was a couple who had just bought a used Ocean 57 Odyssey two days before and were taking her back to Sarasota. “We always wanted this boat and decided now was the time,” her proud owner told us while enjoying the sunset before dinner.
The docks were lined with a variety of boats, and everyone was embracing their time on the water and making memories. The size of the boat didn’t matter, just a desire to head out of the house and seize the day. I can’t wait to get back on the water.