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Kids and Boats

Michael PetersSightlines - May 2014

Horse Power

Kids sometimes don’t have the same love of boats as dad.

On a recent weekend my youngest daughter Katie got married at a Georgia plantation, complete with horse-drawn carriage. It was pretty special for me, as I was the only one to ride with her behind a beautiful white Clydesdale and of course walk her down the aisle. The horse represented great significance, because Katie had fallen in love with horses long before she ever met Justin.

Standing on horse's backBeing a boat designer it seems natural that I tried everything I could to get her and her sister Jennifer to love boating when they were growing up. Every summer with me was full of waterskiing and snorkeling and everywhere we went we would rent a little boat and check the place out by water. I was sorta embarrassed when I rented a Joe’s Rent-A-Boat in Avalon one summer and the girls screamed out, “Howdy ya’ll, we’re from Georgia.” The islander in me cringed and wanted to crawl under the seat. But they were Georgia girls by this time, growing up with their mother, and boating had severe competition.

Lots of men of course think boats are the coolest thing ever, but girls love horses. Back home with their mother they had a barn full of horses and started riding rodeo at a very young age. I always saw horses as oversized dogs with huge teeth, so I never really warmed up to them, and I never appreciated the dust-bowl arenas and waiting all day to watch a 13-second run. I loved boats not horses, but in support of my kids, I began to live a double life. I became a rodeo clown. I would show up at their rodeos in my big black BMW, dressed in shorts, flip-flops, and a Hawaiian shirt. I am sure I was quite an embarrassment over the years, but I had my own identity and wanted to remind them they were boaters by birth.

Jennifer loved to waterski and sunbathe on the boat, but it was Katie who loved to drive it. Every time we took Villam out she would shove me off and take over at the wheel. One summer down in Boca Grande we were running down a channel near Matlacha and I asked her to take the wheel while I looked at something over the stern. Maybe 15 seconds later we were hard aground. Katie had missed the markers and we were high and dry, listing hard on our side in about 6 inches of water. Just out of the channel, we only needed to be towed about 10 feet and Sea Tow was kind enough to help us for about $500! This was the abrupt and sad end of Katie’s boating innocence.  

It seems a bit unfair the advantage horses have over boats, although I suppose living things have their appeal, but it’s not as though they are perfect. In the summer between high school and college, one of Katie’s horses kicked her square in the face, pushing her lower teeth out under her lip, making her look a bit like a Picasso. What does she do? Gets right back on that horse and gets a full scholarship to ride rodeo in college. By this time her best rodeo horse had only one eye, which really psyched out the other competitors.  

A friend of mine told me last summer that after his horse-loving daughter broke her arm she said, “At least now I don’t have to spend all summer boating with dad!” No matter how hard we try we can’t make our kids love boating as much as we do. Now that I have grandkids, I am attempting to bribe them by naming a boat after each of them. So our four-year-old granddaughter Hallie Kate is up next and I am naming her boat Hellcat. She is excited, even though she doesn’t quite get the play on words. Anyway with Katie’s marriage I am hoping for more grandkids so I can get more boats and keep up my new tradition. I might win them over if I can just keep them away from the horses.

Still and all, I suppose I have accepted the reality that boats are playing second fiddle to horses in my family. But after the wedding when I walked back down the aisle, I couldn’t help but notice that that big, beautiful Clydesdale had taken a big dump right at the start of the aisle. For that brief moment, boats looked pretty darn good by comparison!

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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