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Generate a Childhood Memory

Post Hurricane Sandy... celebrating the generator.

As a lifelong sailor… I was taught early on to have a general disregard for the passing shiny power boater making waves for the rest of us… 

Being raised by an avid sailor, my Dad took pride in taking the road less traveled and we took an oath not to own a powerboat.  We were going to enjoy the scenic route, tack upon tack, and hour upon hour to get where we were going.  We were on the boat almost every weekend as a child, always with a new destination to tackle.  To be quite honest, my early sailing years were more about the snacks and sandwiches then the skills I was honing.  Albeit, I somehow still gleaned knot making, how to hold the tiller, tacking, Port v. Starboard, and how to use my handle, “Whisky, Yankee, Fox, Trot” in case we hit trouble or worse, ground.  By the time I was sent to college, my Dad’s work was done.  I had passed Sailing.

My Dad did not settle for the simple pull of the motor string or easy button, as he perceived the powerboats took their path to the water each weekend.  Dad took pride in rebuilding his boats, care and attention to their aging decks and re-sewing their sails by hand when they needed mending.   He did everything on his boats by himself, rarely calling a professional hand.  He was both handy and thrifty, which served him well.  The patina of the wooden rails and cabin doors always reminded me of fine furniture when he refinished them – small tokens of jewelry attached to a large piece of floating fiberglass. 

At night, the scent of oil lanterns fired in the small cabin as the four of us sat over bowls of soup and conversation.  The smell of coffee hitting me in the face early in the morning because Dad was ready to lift anchor in the dark as the birds were just wrestling out of their nests… And the smell my Dad’s boiled wool sweater that held the Chesapeake Bay, the hint of Coppertone lotion and his cherry pipe tobacco deep within the fibers… The smells of childhood…

Many raft-ups amongst sailing families were off Gibson Island… I can vividly remember the constant sound of the power boater’s generator in the not so far distance.  This was a sound so horrific that my father wished he could single handedly move the raft up with one swoosh.  But, to no avail… this was our evening destination.  The backdrop had been chosen, folks had settled children to bed and the music was already playing… The glorious melding of the Chesapeake scents, the swishing of trees on the island tangling themselves together and the low hum of the power boater’s nervous generator.  Lulled us all to sleep… deep sleep.  The sound of childhood…

I flash forward 25 years and often find myself making the same analogy over and over again.  The analogy goes something like this; a Sailor is to an “Old House Guy” like a power boater is to a “New House Guy.”  I suppose I’ve said this with a certain sense of feeling that the New House guy just doesn’t know what he is missing…  a certain snobbery on my part.  For us old house folks have a wonderful bond.  We share the same problems, use the same contractors, will do the unimaginable to remain purist at heart.   I guess sort of like my Dad did about those sailboats he loved…   And, quite frankly, most of us agree, for all their angst, work and money, much like a sailboat, we would not trade the charm, history or feeling we all love about our old house or a perfect sail for anything.

But, as I sit here … post Hurricane Sandy, powerless, without heat, chilly, tripping over cords and shoes, turning on light switches that continue to mock me … I am forever grateful for the low, nervous hum of the generator in the not so far distance.  For she has saved me on more than one occasion.  The sound of happiness…

Special thank you to neighbors and friends, Josh and Allyson Peters for powering Fairfield Drive yet, again!

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