Tag Archives: sailboat

A Tale of My Father: Storm on the Sea

4 Jul

July 4, 2013

Saying that my father knew people is a gross understatement. A candidate for local office may shake the hands of hundreds of people, and still may not equal the number of people my father knew- and knew by name.

For example, Dad would take two or three trips to Las Vegas, along with my grandmother, every year. Along with the normal luggage you’d expect- clothes, for example- he would take a couple of dozen bagels, a gallon of pickles, and other assorted New York foods. Why? Because he knew one of the chefs in a big Vegas hotel and they could not get that type of food out West. (Some people smuggle drugs in their suitcases, Dad packed kosher half-sours.

This particular Tale of My Father is not his finest moment but it is a good story.


Dad loved to go fishing, and he especially loved to go fishing from boats. Fishing off a dock is not nearly as much fun, take it from me, and the type of people you meet fishing off the seawall in Brooklyn? The less said the better. But Dad knew someone who owned a boat and invited him and some others to go fishing. This was a sailboat and you needed to know what you were doing if you wanted to be on one. It takes a certain amount of effort to crew a sailboat. For example, you have to know what lines to pull to make the sail swing around, and you have to be very, very aware when the sail swings around because the beam it is attached to is a- very, very heavy, and b- more or less at the level of your head. So imagine a heavy piece of canvas attached to a log flying around the deck and you have a clue as to why you had to know what the sail was doing at any minute.

So on this occasion Dad and his friends were somewhere on the water fishing and the fishing was great. You should have been there. (There are two fundamental rules for every story about fishing. One is the fishing was always better some time in the past, before you showed up to fish- usually “yesterday.” And two, invariably, when asked how the fishing is, someone will tell you “you should have been here yesterday.”) The weather was nice, the fishing good, the soda and beer plentiful, and the water calm.

And then suddenly a storm came out of nowhere and drenched them all.

minnow-dont-panicThe sea became rough, the boat was tossed, almost but not quite Gilligan’s Island style, and the fishermen soaked. Dad, of course, was ready and had his rain suit with him. In the pouring rain, on the storm-tossed water, he grabbed his wet-weather gear and started to pull it on. If you’ve seen the deck of a sailboat you know there is not much to keep you from being tossed off the boat, just a small rail. So here is Dad, deck pitching, getting soaked by the rain, trying to pull on his rain gear, but above all, watching out for the sail, which in this condition was flying around the boat like the aforementioned flying log.

So it is understandable that he put on the first thing he grabbed, which were his rain pants. Rain pants are not like normal pants in that they have no belt and are not a snug fit. They are loose and held up by suspenders. And as Dad found out, in a heavy downpour, they act as a rubber funnel and all the rain collects inside and soaks your legs. So poor Dad was frantically searching for his rain coat, dodging the sail, and trying to keep from being pitched overboard, all while getting soaked to the bone in his legs. Ideally, you would already be wearing the rain gear when the rain starts or have a dry shelter in which to put them on since the pants have to go one first. In less than ideal weather, you would put on the pants and very quickly put the coat on atop them. These were not less than ideal conditions.

By the time Dad got the rain coat on it was almost pointless. He was soaked, drenched, waterlogged- you can name your favorite description- and the water was now just sitting on him and steaming under the heavy layer of rubber. It is amazing that he didn’t catch the cold or a flu from that, and just as amazing that no one else got conked on the head by the flying sail, but the fishing was great.

You should have been there.

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