Charting Their Own Course

The Old Man And The
Fishing Boat

By Rich Morris
Published: June/July 2013

In honor of Father's Day, a son pays homage to the man who quietly instilled his love of the water.

Photo of the author with his first small sailboat

On Sundays, his day off, my dad would throw the boat on top of the car and take me to one of the little ponds around our home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Then he'd rig the boat, put me in, and push me off like a little toy. I'd sail across the pond, ground on the other shore, and dad would stroll around, turn the boat, and push me off again. I'd do that for an hour or so, then he'd load us back up and we'd go home. Eventually I figured out how to turn, and soon I was sailing around in the tiny ponds. I got pretty good at tacking, so my father would bring a lawn chair, and sit and watch, puffing on his pipe while I sailed to Jamaica or England, or wherever my imagination took me. I loved those sails, and my dad seemed to love them, too.

Photo of author

As I was dreamily recounting my story, the doctor was paying attention. I imagined he was wondering how he could do the same for his two kids, playing down below. He wanted them to love sailing as much as he did. As we continued to talk and I told him more about my dad, I noticed a blue speck to seaward. Over the next hour or so, I watched as the speck, a fishing boat, grew larger and larger, obviously heading to the inlet, too. It was moving slowly, a blue lapstrake hull with nautical white trim, the outriggers set and trolling. As the fishing boat rolled and yawed along, I knew this boat would be the perfect ending for the story I was weaving for the doctor. With a little course adjusting, our sailboat would pass above the fishing craft, on almost parallel courses, allowing us to see into the cockpit.

Photo of the author looking up a the sails

As I continued to talk about my father and his fishing prowess, the doctor interrupted me to point out the boat we were approaching. We crossed his path about 400 yards behind him, far enough to avoid the lines, and then I bore down a little to stay close. The orthodontist became a little fidgety, as we were on a fine reach, footing past the boat. He didn't want to upset anyone on such a perfect day, and I assured him that there would be no problem. As we drew nearer, we could see the lone fisherman, puffing on a pipe, with the wheel lashed in place, four lines out, and a pole in his hands. This was my father, of course, in his element, as happy as I'd ever seen him. He was pumping a line for effect, and his face broke into a huge grin when he saw the sailboat approaching. He waved with his free hand.

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