Bay Reflections

Vol. 8, No. 30
July 27-Aug. 2, 2000
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My Husband’s New Boat
By Janice Lynch Schuster

If it is summer, it is sailing season in Chesapeake Country and all the rivers and tributaries that surround it. This means Wednesday night sailboat races at marinas along the Bay. Soon, my father-in-law will call to invite us on a day-race from St. Michaels to Oxford (The Bay 100, as it is known) or a night race to Bloody Point.

Though I do not know a jib from a jive, I do enjoy sitting on the boat and, when the wind is up, appreciate its fast rush over my skin. Because this is Maryland, of course, that rush is likely to be lost instantly whenever the wind dies and the sails flop.

My husband grew up around sailboats and has a peculiar relationship with them: He complains of a childhood spent cleaning the wooden deck on his father’s boat but recalls with fondness his own small boat, which he sailed in the Magothy River. I should have known this combination would culminate in a boat in my yard, but I was still startled to come home one afternoon to find the hull of a boat in our garage.

The boat was a mud-colored camouflage; small holes had been drilled the entire length of the 15-foot boat in a misguided attempt by the previous owner to drain water from it. My husband announced with more glee than I have ever heard from him that it had been only $25: no sails, no tiller, no centerboard and no trailer. He was virtually beaming as he plugged in his electric sander and went to work.

That night, I tried to sign on to the Web only to be booted off by my husband, who was searching web sites for his boat — a Snipe — so that he could figure out how to rig the thing. This went on for some weeks. Most nights, however, I fell asleep to the sound of the sander’s monotonous hum rattling throughout the house.

At some point that only Erik recognized, the boat was ready for paint. I learned of this when I came in one evening to find a footprint paint trail of red on our oak floors: from the garage to the kitchen and back again. Next came sky blue, and then white, and then red again. I bit my lip, remembering how my grandmother had once cautioned me not to complain about my first husband’s record-collecting obsession: It was better than other things he could have been up to, she said.

All spring, the boat was our version of a car on cinderblocks. It moved from the driveway to the garage and back again. Things were built and rebuilt for it. A trailer appeared out of nowhere, then sails and a mast.

My friends and I puzzled over two large square holes built into the stern of the boat. My mathematician friend commented that it appeared to be an impossible design, but my husband, with much authority, explained that in a race, water would stream out of the boat. Later, my friend told me that he said it with such certainty that she ignored her intuition, believing that “it was so absurd and counterintuitive, it had to be true.”

Eventually came the evening when the boat was allegedly ready to go. My husband took his son and my son and daughter with him, promising to be home by six. It was a clear evening, a little cool, and everyone had a life jacket. I felt they were reasonably safe. By seven, I felt a bit panicked but decided to go out with my youngest child.

When we returned home at eight, the boat was back in place and the front entrance was strewn with damp, chilly clothes. The children raced for me, eager to describe what it had been like being towed “by those nice old people with a motorboat.” Indeed, the “nice old people” had left a kind message on the answering machine to let me know that my husband and children were alive and safe, that they were going to get the boat out of the water and track down warm clothes for the children.

It turned out that the two holes in the stern failed miserably when the boat stopped … .and that the mast had had to come down to make it under a bridge … and that it had been taking forever to move with the one paddle and the boat filling with water … and the wind died.

According to my husband, it had been a great success. According to the children, they will never enter the boat again. I’ve suggested that we simply put the boat on the trailer, raise the sails, and drive around the neighborhood. He could stand at the tiller and wave to neighbors.

My husband does not see the humor; Boating is, after all, better than other things he could be doing.

Janice Lynch Schuster, who reflects from Riva, has blessed us with occasional pieces over the years. She is coauthor of Improving Care at the End of Life: A Sourcebook for Health Care Managers, to be published this fall.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly