Good morning. How are you? Have you expanded easily into summer?
My father built his first sailboat in the garage of our bungalow in Toronto. We lived on a cul de sac, which sounds much better than “dead end street” which we used to say as children. It was a dingy, a single-sailed boat with a mast called a Penguin. He bought the blueprint designs, the wood and tools and constructed every part by hand, except the sail. He hand crafted the wooden hull secure against the water and waves, but purchased the triangular cloth, the sail with a symbol and a number, almost like a license plate but for boats, ready to catch the wind.
For three summers, he learned to steer the vessel, catching wind, navigating the waters of Georgian Bay. But, this wasn’t enough. One sail couldn’t harness much wind and he would fall behind other boats racing across the choppy blue-green waves. So, he bought another blueprint and built another boat with a mainsail and a jib – a Fireball – first conceived in 1962.
I remember skipping, double-dutch, in the driveway, peeking over at the sleek cedar hull, sanded and varnished, feeling admiration and pride. Neighbours came to watch the process unfolding, seeing the nearly five foot expanse jutting out of the too-small garage. It was summer and he had been preparing in the basement all winter.
That boat would speedily slide across the choppy waters and even with my mandatory life preserver, I was scared with every outing. I sat tense near the centre mast at the front of the boar. We would tack across the bay from Beaver Dams beach to Blueberry Island where we would fill a bucket with wild blueberries. Other than the odd pine growing out of the rocky mossy surface, blueberry bushes covered the tiny island. I’d sail for blueberries, knowing we had a destination, but fear would grip me every time.
Each tack sent me under the boom to the other side of the boat and my father would coax me to “handle the jib” barking commands to bring in the sail to catch the wind. I’d pull and watch the two white pieces of fabric flutter with each turn imagining they would never open again – we’d be stranded. Yet, each time, with a few turns of the rudder, and attention to nature, they would unfurl and open again to the wind.