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Nostalgia

Memories of boats little and big

On a robust early morning in 1958, I jumped into Chesapeake Country. We lived in Baltimore, but my father had bought a summer place in Chelsea Beach on Mill Creek. For the second year, I woke to hear the birds chattering away.
    This day, I planned to take our 12-foot runabout across the Magothy River to see my friend at her uncle’s large log cabin.
    I ran down the wooded path to the dock, careful not to slide or wind up tangled in a small tree.
    The waiting boat seemed okay, as I checked it out. I added gas to the tank and mixed in the obligatory oil. A safety vest, oars and a line were on board. I covered my fair skin in sunscreen, put on my sunglasses and was set to go.
    I had visited her uncle’s place by way of Mountain Road, but this was a first trip by river. The little outboard motor started the first time I pulled its rope. I was off to see my friend.
    It felt good atop the calm water in a light breeze. Seagulls dotted the clouds, swishing in and out to catch a fish. My ride was quick. About 15 minutes from Mill Creek, I saw the large log cabin.
    Anchored at the big dock was her uncle’s 48-foot custom cabin cruiser. He’d designed the Elaine K. and had it built in North Carolina. It dwarfed me and my boat about five times over.
    At the beach, I tied my roundabout to a piling. In the screened ­gazebo, my friend had cold sodas waiting.
    “Yay,” I said. “I made it in one day.”
    Linda and I met in junior high school. I lost my mother to cancer when I was 12, and she had lost her father a year earlier. When we found that out, we became friends.
    Her uncle Clyde, aunt Elaine and mother were a second family to me. They joined us in the gazebo, friendly and welcoming as ever.
    Linda and I spent the rest of the afternoon walking over the wooded property. We sat on the pier and beach and talked about what we wanted to do after high school. When 4pm came, it was hard to leave.
    Linda waded out into the water to hold the boat while I got it started. Except this time it wouldn't start. After a dozen pulls on the cord, I stopped to rest my arm.
    “It started fine this morning,” I said, embarrassed.
    “Don't worry,” she said. “Uncle Clyde will tow you home.”
    “I hope that doesn’t happen. With me looking like a minnow, he’ll look like a shark after eating a little bait.
    Uncle Clyde tried to start the motor for me, but it still didn’t work. It would take until dark to row my runabout back home. So the Elaine K. did tow me home — and it looked just as I imagined.