Sunday 14 August 2011

Catching Up With My Past as My Past Catches Up With Me

     "The memories come along..."
               -The Little River Band

     You might want to go and grab yourself a beverage- this bone's got some meat on it.

      No, really, go ahead.  I'll wait.

      Let me tell you a story:

      I started sailing 34 (!?!) years ago, when my golf-loving parents and I discovered that I really didn't like golfing very much.  I was nine years old, and the summer of "golf camp"  my parents had lined up at the club was not figuring high on my bucket list.

     The 'rents asked me, "Well, what would you rather do instead?"

     I didn't know.  I DID know what I didn't want to do:


     Frankly, I would have been perfectly cool with running wild all summer,  "Lord of the Flies" style, firing BB guns and playing Crazy 8s with my best friend Derrick.

    My parents DID know what they didn't want me to do:  See above.

     So, in mid-June, faced with the prospect of no daycare developmental-stimulation activities for their shy, anti-social, bespectacled stuttering eldest son,  Ma and Pa Jones and I sat down for a summit meeting to come up with a solution.
     "You like to swim, right?"
      Yes, I liked to swim...

     "You like boats, right?"

     Yeah! I like boats!  My cousins have a runabout and the highlight of a visit to their home on the Detroit River is going for a cruise...  hey, this looks like it might be going somewhere good!

      "How about sailing school?"

     Sailing?  SCHOOL?!  Whoa, wait a minute, hold the phone-  I am NOT going to school during the summer.  Well, at least not without failing math or something.  Which I didn't.

(Well, not for a few more years, anyway.)

      When it was explained that a) it wasn't really school, (just like golf camp isn't really "camp'- no s'mores, no canoes), and b) I only had to try it for two weeks, I grudgingly gave in.

       I showed up on the north shore of  Pittock Lake the first morning, clutching my new Buoy-O-Buoy lifejacket (we didn't call them PFDs back then), already angling how I was going to escape and catch up with Derrick for a day of tree-fort building and Crazy 8s.

      After passing the swimming test, I was herded onto an Alcan Petrel sailboat for my introduction to sailing. I was told just to sit still, and the instructor and the older kid with me will do all the work.

      Fine.  I'll go out on the boat which looks slow and boring (it doesn't have a motor!  Not even any metalflake in the finish! It's aluminum, ferpete'ssake!) I am ballast on a beer can in a dorky looking uncomfortable lifejacket.
       I am SO out of here!

       I didn't leave until Labour Day.  And then I counted down the days until next summer.

       The hook was well and truly set by the time I climbed out of that Petrel.  By the next summer, I had my own boat, and over the following two summers I completed all of the CYA sailing courses.

        I  didn't know it, but I  wasn't the only one bitten by the sailing bug that summer.

       My parents were, and still are, as ubersocial as I am anti-social.   New neighbours, new co-workers, hell, new customers at the local grocery store, are apt to find themselves introduced and invited for dinner.

       That was how I met Jim and Lori Parks.

       Jim and Lori were younger than my parents, had no kids of their own, and they were cool!  They were American, which earned huge bonus points from this kid who knew where all the good Saturday morning cartoons were produced, Jim drove a Porsche, and they didn't talk down to me.  Unpatronizing adults- how cool is that?

       Jim worked with my dad, and Lori taught in the same school board as my mother, so I saw them quite often.  In fact, my brother and I acted as a sort-of training family for them.  We spent weekends with Jim and Lori, and occasionally I would invite myself over.

     Yes, I had no shame even then... although I am mildly embarassed now.  Mildly.

The Parks pair were interested in sailing as well, so when they decided to go to the in-water boat show in toronto in the summer of 1978, they invited me along.  WOW!  I never knew there were that many different types of boats! Cruisers, racers, dinghies, keelboats... I think I still have some of the brochures I picked up at that show.

     The next year, Jim and Lori moved away, eventually back to Michigan, and I lost touch.  My parents traded the occasional letter and Christmas cards, but  I never saw them again.

     I have always been thankful for the kindness they showed an awkward kid.

    A generation later, in 2010, I am checking the traps on my trapline of internet favourites, and see an "introduction" post on Anything Sailing


My name is Jim. I sail a unnamed Catalina 310 on Lake St. Clair out of the Clinton River in Harrison Township, Michigan. I've been a member of AS for a while now, but up to now I have lurked without contributing.

I've decided to join the conversation.

About me: I cruise, don't race. I also usually take an annual 1-2 week trip up to Lake Huron, having made it as far Alpena one time. I am not yet retired (a couple of years down the road still) so most of my sailing is on weekends.

I am looking forward in getting to know some of you in the future.

Jim P.

   Nah, couldn't be... could it?

    I fire back a reply;

Welcome aboard, Jim. You wouldn't happen to have a wife named Lori, would you?

Okay, in hindsight it's a tad stalker-esque,  but how else was I gonna put it?

You can probably see where this is headed, but the whole conversation is here:

     Last week I got a message from Jim, asking if I was available for lunch on Friday.  I quickly fired back an affirmative, and we made plans to meet at The Arbor, in Port Dover.

      This is either going to be really awkward, or a whole lot of fun.

     Starting with, how the hell do you recognize somebody you haven't seen in three decades?

     No problem.  Jim told me what he was driving, and to look for a "balding guy."

     Found the car.  Didn't find them...

     Until a guy WEARING A HAT waved....

     (Which, if you're getting thin on top, makes perfect sense on a very sunny day, but it does disguise the one identifier I had.)

     And any concerns disappeared.  I introduced Louise, we ordered dogs and fries and caught up.  I asked what their schedule was like, and lunch quickly turned into a sail on Whiskeyjack.

   The afternoon was typical Long Point Bay this season- choppy water, 5-8 knot wind gusting to 15 out of the southwest.  We reefed the main and got busy.

     Jim and Lori sail a Catalina 310, so it was a pleasure to see Jim willing to slum it and take the helm on the decidedly more humble 'jack.

We returned to the marina and crash docked, just in time to meet my parents who had decided to come visit.

   As my mother said, "it was like we'd just seen each other a half hour ago."


    Lunch, which turned into a sail, turned into dinner at the Beach House:

Two generations of new and old friends shared laughs, stories, and good company.  It really doesn't get any better.

Jim and Lori, thanks for everything back then, and thanks for joining us again!

And thanks to all of you for checking us out.  Please feel free to "Talk the Dock!"  Follow us, link us, or just tell your friends.

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