Sunday, December 07, 2008

Things My Father Taught Me

We have been a maritime family since 1639, when Jeremiah Vail landed at, or on, Orient Point, the very tip of Long Island’s North Fork. Not quite as classy as the South Fork, home to the tip’s Montauk Point, the Village of Orient in its entirety is on the National Register of Historical Places. Stuff that in your Birkenstocks and mixed drinks, Montauk.

As far as I can remember, the first thing he taught me was not to take our boat – or any boat, for that matter – behind a tugboat. Two reasons: (1) The tug has a large and powerful wheel (for you inland folks, that’s a propeller) and the water it stirs up has an equally large and powerful force which can spin you around in either direction, completely out of control. (2) Tugs tow barges and if there is a ground haze, you might not see the barge which could easily be a quarter-mile behind the tug. Many boaters have come to grief for not knowing this.

The second teaching moment came when I was but a little boy and had to take a leak. We are miles offshore and so I whipped it out, bent over the side and heard my father shout, “With the wind! With the wind!” You are going maybe five or ten mph into a five or ten mph breeze; that means you are letting loose into a good bit of wind and the old man is sitting in the back of the boat, steering.

The classical music piece, “Calm Seas and Prosperous Voyage,” is a contradiction. In the days of sail, calm seas meant there was no wind; you had a prosperous voyage when the wind was howling and the seas were running high. Just in case you wondered.


Post a Comment

<< Home