Cruising on the Intercoastal with Dad
Thanks to guest Clint Page for sending in this story in honor of Father’s Day this weekend.
When I was a kid growing up in the country north of Raleigh, North Carolina, my dad and I would talk about taking a boat down the St. Lawrence River. Those conversations echoed in different ways at two times much later in my life.
When I was about 35, Dad and I finally had our boat trip, although it was not down the St. Lawrence. Instead Dad and a friend of his and I moved a 28-foot sailboat down the Intercoastal Waterway, from Severna Park, Maryland, to Oriental, North Carolina. We left in the evening and sailed down the Chesapeake Bay, passing through an area where large ships anchored before moving on into Baltimore. Some time that night we were hit by a sudden gust of wind that nearly tipped the boat over; it was the first time I ever heard Dad seriously swear.
At the end of the next day we moored for the night in a perfect half-circle of a cove in Virginia. The next day we found ourselves wanting to head right into the wind, so in the interest of time, we dropped sails and started up the auxiliary motor and that night we motored into Norfolk Harbor, where we were almost run over by a navy patrol boat. Turned out the light we were steering toward was a traffic light, not a navigational aid. We slept on shore that night, each of us with his own room at the motel at the marina. From Norfolk we motored down the waterway where it was too narrow to sail, and sailed where there was plenty of room. On the evening of the fifth day of the trip, we sailed into Oriental, a small fishing and sailing village on the Neuse River. The five days of the trip made up the longest time I had spent with my Dad.
I said there were two echoes of my conversations about the St. Lawrence with my Dad. The second one doesn’t involve him; he was gone by then. But I did get my boat trip down the St. Lawrence, roughly 35 years after the trip down the Intracoastal Waterway with Dad. My wife and I (along with her oldest sister and her husband) took a Holland-America cruise out of Boston, around Newfoundland and down the St. Lawrence. We stopped in Maine, and in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where we found my wife’s great-grandfather on the list of the crew of the Titanic. We stopped in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where we toured Anne of Green Gables county. We spent a day in Quebec, and ended up in Montreal, where in a used book store I found a biography of an American engineer who had been in charge of major dam projects around the country, including Shasta Dam in northern California. My dad had worked on Shasta Dam shortly after I was born, so maybe he was part if the trip down the St. Lawrence after all. Or maybe he was just waiting for me at the end.