How I Met Your Mother

By Tom Neale
Photos by Tom and Mel Neale
Published: August/September 2012

As a teenager, Tom said, he was a loner with a passion for cruising. With more than a nod to Huckleberry Finn, he found the love of his life. And no, we don't mean a boat. Here's part one of a two-part series, by one of America's most popular boating writers.

Photo of a young Tom Neale A young Tom Neale at the help of his Glasspar Seafair Sedan, his first fiberglass boat.

The five sisters lounging on their parents' classic Matthews, along with their friends, were having the same debate they had every day: Should they go to the pool or the beach? Sevenwyts III, a luxurious 40-footer, sat in a marina basin that was separated from the Chesapeake Bay by a beautiful beach. Nearby, the top of an old lighthouse rested on the sand, no longer warning of shoals, but making a nice shelter on a hot summer day.

As each girl put her case forward as to how to pass the afternoon, another girl hastened down the dock toward the boat, her stride quickening with the promise of gossip. "Look," she said in a low voice, pointing to a junked-up boat at the gas dock. "There's that weird kid they were talking about." Among the parents and adults at the dockside cocktail party the night before, that "weird kid" had been a hot topic, a subject of mild amusement tinged with disdain that their fine marina was being subjected to such riffraff.

Tom and Mel Neale's wedding photo
Mel and Tom's wedding.

"He sometimes comes in here to get gas with that leaky old boat," the new arrival informed the sisters. "He fills up all these jugs and goes in to the store to buy food. He doesn't stay here overnight, thank heavens. That would be awful."

"They say he stays out in the bay for weeks," said another of the sisters. "He isn't from here, y'know. They say he comes from way upriver. Eee-uuuw, that boat looks like it could sink any minute. Just think of the mess it would make!"

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