Sunday, June 3, 2012

On the Water


I have always loved being on the water.

When my brothers and I were young, my parents would rent a cottage on a lake for at least one full week every summer. 'Twas there that I was introduced to boats. I had always enjoyed being IN the water, now I would learn the joys of being ON the water.

The first place that I can recall staying at was on Lake Bomoseen in Vermont. The cabin was right on the water, it had a dock and there was a boat.

Upon arrival my brothers wanted to go swimming. Me? I wanted to go out on the boat.

Looking back on it, it wasn't really much of a boat. As such things go. It was an aluminum hulled row boat, probably no more than ten feet long. If it was that much.

But to me, it was magnificent. It floated and could take me out on the water.

The first couple of times my Dad would come with me (usually with a brother or two in tow) and he would do the rowing. After a while he consented to let me take the boat out on my own. Of course I had to stay in sight of the cabin. No problem, I was still in a boat, on the water and (most importantly) "flying" solo. So to speak.

Eventually I was cut loose from close parental supervision and allowed to roam the lake at will. Now Bomoseen is a fairly good-size lake, not massive mind you, but pretty big for a twelve-year-old in a row boat. But I went up and down most of the shoreline on our cabin's side of the lake in those first couple of days. The motion of the boat, the creaking of the oars and the smell and feel of being on the water put me in seventh heaven.

One morning, it was early I recall as the fog was still on the water, I decided that I would row ACROSS the lake. Not sticking close to the shoreline but set out to cross to the other side. My Mom viewed this endeavor with some trepidation, my Dad said go for it. But, of course, be careful.

Off I went, into the fog. The lake was still as a millpond that morning. The power boaters were still abed so it felt like I had the entire lake to myself. I felt like Columbus must have felt as he set off for the Indies. (Bear in mind, I was only twelve.)

As our cabin got smaller and smaller I felt more and more, how shall I put this? Free. Yup, that's the word for it. Sky above, water below. Just me and my trusty row boat.

In my memory, the lake was rather wide at the point I'd chosen for my trip. Looking at the map, it appears that the lake is a good 2000+ feet wide at my crossing point. So my youthful memories of the width of the lake are somewhat accurate. So it was a bit of a pull to get across that lake.

After rowing some more, I raised my oars and faced towards the bow. 'Lo and behold, there was my goal, the opposite side of the lake, well within hailing distance. A few more minutes of pulling and I again raised oars and let my boat glide in to kiss the shoreline.

I got out of the boat and stood there on the shore, kind of wishing I had a flag or something to raise and claim that side of the lake. I'm sure that the actual owners of that bit of shoreline would not have minded much the antics of a twelve-year old's vivid imagination. Things back then are not like they are now. Nowadays I probably would have had lawyers hounding the family, demanding compensation for my trespasses. Sigh.

All too soon, I went back aboard and set out for my return journey. It felt like I'd accomplished some great thing. That I'd been on some stupendous voyage of discovery. Again, I was twelve. What did I know?

But looking back on it, I cherish that particular memory. I set myself a goal and accomplished that goal. With nothing but an aluminum row boat and a pair of wooden oars.

I've been on many boats (and ships) since then. Many faster, most much larger. But I will never forget that little aluminum row boat. She and I became fast friends that summer long ago. I shall never forget her. She was a good boat, a trustworthy and stable boat. And that summer, so many years ago?

She was MY boat.

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