Going on the Account: A Proud Tradition, I Hope…

It doesn’t take a lot to make me proud of my son, but what he did Sunday was fantastic…


I visited him at his summer camp, where he gets to spend some time out of the city and away from his embarrassing parents.   I’m sure he’s happy to be around me most of the time, as much of a pain as I can be as the moment arises, but given a chance to do something nice over the summer holiday I can’t say I’d blame him.

So as the visit unfolded and he shared with us his experiences and wants (like rebooting his iPod, something a few kids there had technical difficulties with), he told us about what he wanted to do while we were with him for those few hours.  A swim in the lake was expected, of course, as was seeing the arts and crafts he’d worked on.

And then, he asked me if I wanted to go out in a sailboat with him.


Of course I said, “Aye!”  And he replied, “Dad, you do any more pirate talk I’ll get upset,” so I toned it down a little from there…

Now, years ago, my Dad had given me a small taste of sailing when he got a snark through a Kool cigarettes promotion.  Mind you, I don’t recall entirely how, as he wasn’t a smoker, so maybe he bummed a carton flap off someone who did, but in any event I’d gone out on an upstate lake and had my first experiences trimming sails with him, the two of us in a Styrofoam craft with an eleven foot length overall.  What would have been really cool would have been not having to go so far afield to take her out, but back in those days you did not take a small craft down to the Hudson River and launch her from Riverside Park.  Now that I think about it, you still probably can’t, but that’s a distraction, so anyway…

I wish I could say that that set me on a path of running off to sea and making me a sailor, but Fate decided on other things for me.  Maybe it was the fact that most of the schooners were replaced by container ships that made the romance of the sea hard to find.  The closest I ever got to doing that was a brief period in high school when I considered the navy, getting out to see the world from the deck of a warship.  Like many wild ideas we all have at that age, this one didn’t have enough fuel to keep it alit long enough to go from thought to action, though occasionally the thought comes back like Sonar echoes…

So there we were that afternoon, James taking the tiller on a Dart Pico with me as his proud passenger.  That, and as adjustable ballast, to keep us from capsizing, which can be tough considering how little clearance the boom has over the deck for older fathers like me.  I think my spine’s back in shape now, though…


And I couldn’t begin to say how proud I was watching him tack close hauled, giving the tiller just the right amount of English to get that craft up to a good five knots or so as we made our way from shore out to the middle of the lake.  The two of us out there, my son showing great innate seamanship as he guided her along and brought us quite some distance out.

Now the Pico is a small craft, emphasis on “small,” so there wasn’t much we could bring with us.  I’m looking forward to some day doing an excursion with him where we bring along some stores, a good deal of which are expended en route, but best to wait until he’s the right age to stow some of that along, but still…

And out in the middle of the water,  we talked, father to son.  Not about too much of any great weight, as he’s still a bit young for some of those topics and we have time yet, but it was a start, a decent conversation to have while out in a boat.

A boat my son sailed out on his own.


Now, my son may decide that he doesn’t want to be the next Joe Hill or Richard Christian Matheson, and maybe that’s for the best.  For all I know, he may well decide on a path unknowable to me, or even something hard to get behind, like real estate law.

But I will always treasure the knowledge that even if only for a little bit, he had an appreciation for the craft of sailing and was very good at it.  That one piece of him that he carried forward was something I could not look at without a swell of pride, a grand memory, and a hope for a happy future though seamanship…


Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Going on the Account: A Proud Tradition, I Hope…

  1. Beautiful account of your relationship with Jamie! Thanks for blogging this lovely story, Jim. We’re all on that “unknowable path”, but with you as Jamie’s dad, he’s (oh, do forgive this triteness!) got wide swatches of smooth sailing ahead, and he’ll learn how to navigate the rough seas as he matures. I’ve actually seen him do it more and more the last year and a half.

  2. Reva Ratisher

    Such a nice exerpt from a father/son outing. Your pride in Jamie is evident as well as the memory of a day gone by with your own DAD. Thanks for sharing. Love, REVA

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