Sunday, July 3, 2011

Boat is a Four Letter Word

How it Began...

It started innocently enough, we  were a Texas family of five going on six; Mom, Dad, me (age 11), and my two brothers Joe (age 8) and Danny (age 6).  My mother was pregnant with our sister Mary Jennifer. 

Oil prices were up, none of his children could drive and none were in college.  My dad turned 36.

Sensing his own mortality, my father decided it was time to make a change.  Some men buy expensive cars, others quit their jobs or leave their families.  Still others take on mistresses.  My father desired to do something fun.  Something fun for the whole family. 

He bought a boat.

At least two months before the arrival ...of the boat, not my sister, he began reading sailing manuals to us at the table during dinner.  He showed us how to tie endless types of knots, of which I remember only two:

1) the type you use with a shoelace that is too short.
2) the type you never ever ever use on a boat.
(hint: guess which one we used on the gib lines).

July 2nd, the day before my birthday

My father loaded up the Suburban...suitcases, children, life jackets, fishing poles, birthday cake and the dog.  We drove to Port Arthur to pick up his new boat to be launched on its maiden voyage in front of all his brothers and sisters and their children as part of my birthday celebration. 

My mom and brother Danny had gone ahead of my father in the other car and would meet us at the family beach house.  

Joe and I grew bored at the boat place.  We tested the vending machines.  The only soda left was lime.  We were told not to run our fingers across the hulls of the crafts or to climb on anything.  We were told to watch tv but the only show that we could get was Gilligan's Island.

It was two hours before the whole deal was closed and we drove off with a light yellow sail boat in tow.  

Blissful, complete, my father spoke benevolently to his childrenn, explaining "accidental jibes" and "tacking" as he smoked his pipe.  All was right with the world.  

And so it was for over a mile and a quarter.  Then, the honeymoon was over.

The tire on the left side of the trailer was flat.  My father, still calm (sort of), searched the hull of the boat for a spare. He looked at the right tire.  It too was dangerously low.  Dad searched his car for a spare. Surely he had brought one that was trailer size. 

Since this time, my father has always carried at least two spare tires for the trailer....and he  has never used them.   This brings up the first two rules of boats. 

Rule 1) Whatever you don't have a spare of, will break.
Rule 2) Whatever you do have a spare of, will break and the spare you have will somehow, some way, not be the same as, maybe an inch longer, too long or not strong enough to serve adequately as a replacement. 

To Continue the story...

My father flagged down the patron saint of boats in our family, Jack Bethencord, a retired pipe fitter.  We have never seen him since but my father named the boat after this man.  Jack took my father and us, (we left the don in the car with my cake), and drove back to the dealership. 

It had closed for the 4th of July weekend.  My father silently cursed and Joe and I kept quiet.  Jack drove us to Sears where he and my father managed to buy 4 "C sized" trailer tires. 

We returned to the brand new (abandoned) boat, suburban, dog and trailer. 

Jack owned a boat and told my father about some of his trials as they fixed the flats.  I went to rescue the dog from the car, only to discover she had eaten my cake.*  I yelled at the dog and Dad thanked Mr. Bethencord. 

It was past eight o'clock.  We were tired, hungry, quarrelsome and disillusioned.  The first joys of ownership however, had been discovered.   We could sell the boat.

Our journey however, had only begun...(More tomorrow)

*It resulted in me and my mom making "the cake" as an alternative. 

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