Best Day On The Water: My Family Legacy

By Michele Eremea Smith

Family boating fun illustration

In 1951, my grandfather purchased a 14-foot Old Town lapstrake boat. He and my grandmother packed the mahogany hull with a full-size mattress, a genuine Army-issued three-room tent, and enough Pabst Blue Ribbon to last the duration.

A short foot race settled which two grandchildren would accompany them. I won. The saga began with the bright orange trailer rolling 12 hours north on Old 27 toward Muskellunge Lake on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Once at the campsite, we set up the behemoth residence with the Old Town, which became the platform for our adventures, positioned in front. We caught our first fish from it, dove off its bow, paddled it long distances before we were permitted to run its engine, then went on long sightseeing jaunts once we were no longer considered a safety risk. We raced across pristine waters and stopped to listen to the echo of the loons and the music of the whippoorwills. It was during these lovely summers I learned to love the magical melody of the waves hitting a wooden hull.

In winter, the Old Town would be perched inverted in my grandfather's garage where he lovingly sanded and varnished every square inch in anticipation of the following summer. And so it unfolded year after year, as we grew to adults. In my 30s, my grandfather knew the Old Town would need a new permanent home. I'd already restored a boat, so I won that contest, too. My husband, Greg, and I now take our own grandchildren out on that same boat. 

— Published: February/March 2019

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