Looking back, I have absolutely wonderful memories of my Dad’s fishing boat. As Debbie and I floated around the pool this past Sunday, we started reminiscing about all the good times on the water or at the cabin — and sunny days on the fishing boat that could comfortably fit our family of six. Mom and Tommy sold the boat this past weekend to a very nice family of four that would use the boat for all the same reasons we loved it as kids.
Dad bought it new in 1978. I was 11 years old and I remember him telling us about the colors he picked — the sparkle in the shiny fiberglass finish and the white contrast of the design. He talked about the two lounge seats for relaxing and the two high seats meant for fishing off both ends of the boat. It even had a snazzy container for keeping fish. He brought it home and shined it up, and we were all fitted for life jackets and fishing gear. I can remember how excited we were — like kids on Christmas day.
Life revolved around fishing in the summers and relaxing on the boat. Sometimes Dad would get us up at four in the morning so we could get on the lake before sunrise. Mom and I would take the lounge seats, wrapped up in blankets and napped until daybreak. It would be chilly on the water and sometimes it was covered with a thick, cold fog. We’d watch the sun break through that and burn it off to reveal a glorious sunny day. Sometimes I would just look over the side of the boat and see how far I could see into the water. It would rock rhythmically on the water and was very soothing.
Mom always packed lunchmeat, double stuff oreos, homemade chocolate chip cookies, M&Ms and chips. One of the storage bins below the lounge chairs held the food, while the other had ice that stored cans of soda. Debbie and Tommy usually rode on the front of the boat and Bob and Dad had the back seats. Tommy was only two when we got the boat and rarely joined us on the water until he was seven or eight. That kid loved to fish and he was pretty good at it.
Dad was at his happiest on the boat. He always was laughing and smiling and left all the problems of work at the office. This was his time with the family. I think it was one of his special places — that ranked up there with spending time at the cabin — hunting, fishing, hiking and just being outdoors. And it rubbed off on us — we all love the water.
I remember one time Tommy was learning to cast — he threw his pole back, as he was sitting on the back fishing chair, and snagged my nose when he cast forward. I had a nose piercing long before that was cool — except for the night crawler hanging from my nose. Another time, we took the boat to Lake Erie. This was back in the day when Mom and Dad rented these little cabins in Vermillion, OH along the lake for a week. The water was so rough that Dad made us get out and swim to shore to our beach area. He decided it was better not to have his entire family on the boat if it capsized! Most of the time we took it to Lake Arthur, because it was closest to home. And later the Tionesta Lake once we built the cabin. All of these lakes catered to fisherman. My Dad complained when anyone disturbed the fishing — as you could use high powered boats and jet skis at Tionesta Lake.
My high school years, Dad worked for a specialty glass company in Coldwater, Michigan after the last B&W steel mill closed. He rented a small, one-room cabin right on the water that had its own dock — staying there during the work week and coming home to his family on the weekends. He docked the boat there a couple of summers, and we all took turns spending some time up there. The boat gave Dad some comfort during the long weeks alone. He sacrificed much so that we could go to college.
Sometimes those glorious sunny days on the boat would turn into steamy afternoons with a pop-up thunderstorm. We usually didn’t have time to get to the car, so Dad would pull the boat along shore and we would ride out the storm on the water. I would be petrified. The boat would fill up with water above our ankles and there wouldn’t be a dry spot anywhere. I would always think, “there’s no way God will hit the boat with lightning, because Bob’s on the boat and he wouldn’t take a priest, because there’s a shortage of priests!” That was the time that Mom tried to get Dad to change out of his heavy wet jeans into her purple polka dot shorts just while his pants dried. He refused and said he would rather sit in his underwear, because someone might see him in those shorts. Sure enough, the fish & game commission came around to check our fishing licenses.
The last time I was in the boat was in 2009, a couple of months after my major surgery. I had fallen into some kind of funk or depression, as I didn’t have the strength to go back to work at that time. My brother, Bob was convinced that I just needed to get out of the house, so he took myself, Tom and my Mom out for a day of fishing on Lake Arthur. I’ll always remember that day as the day that started to bring me back to life.
This boat represented good things for 36 years of my life. While the boat may be gone, of course, the memories remain for each one of us. I doubt my Dad had any idea just how much it meant to all of us. And now a new family will start new memories of their own.
A L W A Y S B E L I E V E !