Barnett Butterfly Scow: Father And Son ExperienceArticle By Mark Suszko
My eldest is 18 now, Iím 50... and our relationship is at that often-awkward stage where rebellion and self-reliance conflicts with authority and security. Thereís a lot of testing of boundaries, a lot of re-assessment of roles. A lot of shouting. Itís been strained. I went thru it too, at the same age.
Ever since I blew out a disk in my back, I recruit my son into coming along to help launch and recover the sailboat. He goes along dutifully, usually not enthused, since heís a teenager losing a good chunk of a saturday afternoon. Often he packs an iPod and rod and reel to kill time while I sail. But he started to take some time to shoot photos of me, like the ones here. And he got more engaged with the process, watching me learn. My first season, I just didnít feel comfortable taking him out or letting him sail alone, because I hadnít built up enough skill yet. But it was good to have him along anyhow.
The day we went out and the winds turned out to be too strong, I was cursing my wasted Uhaul rental and the weather forecast that was inaccurate. He encouraged and prodded and goaded me to make an attempt. First, we killed time waiting: I left the rig off the hull, and let him paddle it around like a canoe along the shore, he had fun. And after about an hour of that messing around, the wind slacked off to 20 miles an hour with occasional gusts. I still wasnít too confident. But my son kept prodding me, and eventually I put the rig together and raised the sail, and it didnít seem *too* bad. I tentatively launched: the point I launch from is almost always a lee shore, so my son pushes me out to where I can drop the daggerboard and sheet-in. Otherwise, it would be a lot of futile padding by myself alone, to get out far enough to set sail before being blown back into the rip rap on shore.
My son, pushing me out into the conditions I wasnít sure I could handle, was a perfect rolereversal of my teaching him his first bicycle lessons. And his joy at seeing me off well was the same as mine, letting go the handlebars and watching his skinny legs pedaling away. And I DID manage to sail in that wind, after all. He was triumphant in his being right about that. I had the ride of my life, throwing a good wake, the bow slapping the waves hard and me going fast as I dared without hiking out (hadnít yet fixed the toe rails at that point). The next time out, winds were mild, 10-20 and offshore. I called him to wade out and hop on. It was lucky there was no vang on the boat; that was where he sat, his back to the mast, facing aft. I had a crew.
Over the first 30 minutes I showed him how to sheet in and out, how we tack and jibe. With him handling the sheet, I could handle the tiller with more authority, and we sailed well. Feeling confident, I struck out for the far side of the lake, about a mile off, where Iíd never dared go before. We moved smoothly on a strong reach, skimming the hull and hearing the tinkling of the water streaming away from our wake, the little thumps of wave ripples under the planing hull. We were MOVING and everything seemed in balance. We were not father and son so much as just two men; two sailors working together to get the best free ride mother nature could offer us. And, working hard not to mess up, we were in a place where the tension of our normal relationship was gone. Replaced with mutual respect and trust.
His ipod was in a watertight bag and had a little speaker. We jammed ďIím On A BOAT!Ē over and over, laughing our heads off, and played reggae songs on an hourís worth of long tacks as we worked back to the beach and the van. Iíll treasure that day until I die; Iíll never forget that father-son bonding time. And we both look forward to next season; Iím getting a trailer this year, so our schedules will have more flexibility. Heís meanwhile asking me now if this season, he can borrow my boat to take a girl out on a sailing date some time. He says anybody his age can offer a car ride to a date, but, in his words: ďA sailboat ride is something special.Ē Darned straight it is, son.