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.

A Perfect Sunset

The doctor called to his children below to come up, and his wife woke up from her nap on the foredeck. The doctor and his family shouted their greetings to my dad, and he asked them good-naturedly if I was taking care of them all right. "He's been a wonder!" said the doctor's wife. "You should be proud!" My father beamed with happiness.

Photo of the author sailing a small sailboat

For years my dad would recount that oceanic meeting, telling his friends how proud he was of his son. I'd laugh, and we'd talk of each being where he belonged. Sometime during the ensuing years, I came to really appreciate how my dad had taught me to sail without knowing how himself. He never said much, except to comment when I threw a tack well and the boat kept moving, or survived a jibe without going in. But he was there, and I was there, in a safe environment, with plenty of support, and when those factors are present, almost anything can grow.

My father passed away shortly after celebrating his 80th birthday, but at some point in my life before that, it had finally occurred to me that after all those years of him being proud of me that day, I'd been just as proud of him. Thankfully, I was able to share this essay with him before he left us, just to let him know. He said he already did.End of story marker

Rich and his wife Lisa live in central Florida and have two grown children and three grandchildren. He holds a United States Coast Guard captain's rating and has sailed and run powerboats professionally, up and down the Eastern Seaboard. He cruised Julia Elisa, a 33-foot Morgan Out Island, for 12 years all over eastern Florida before making the transition to a 41-foot trawler, Wanderer II, named after his late father Roy Morris' fishing boat.

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