Friday, January 18, 2013

Boat Love, 1986

Illustration by Gary Kelley for New England Monthly

   For the May 1986 issue of New England Monthly, eight writers were asked to write about eight terrific places. Tracy Kidder wrote about The Cape. Geoffrey Wolf wrote about Block Island and Dad wrote about the Connecticut Coast, what little he saw of it from his 23 foot World War 2 era Acadia-powered lifeboat originally called Krenie L. Dad was first drawn to the boat by the sound of its engine's sweeping piston toop!-toop!-toop! Red Norton sold Dad the boat with two bits of advice about that engine: "First, never be pointing at anything expensive when you try (backing this engine). Second, it will never go into reverse when you want it to."

The Godspeed Manatee

   Dad hauled her, scraped her, sanded her, painted her and renamed her Godspeed Manatee "after the lazy, sweet-natured hibiscus munching, bottom-sleeping mammal that has seduced so many sailors before me." The boat was hardly sweet natured. As Dad wrote,  it would always quit on him just across from Jacobs Beach.

The Acadia Engine. 

There I'd be, amid the lazy cries of canvas-deck-chaired mothers, who called to children wading out of reach. There I'd be, priming and cranking, with the rudder beginning to mire in the bottom muck. My hands would blister. My blisters would blister. Wise crackers would wade out to taunt me. Weekend fishermen, crowded into little five-horsepower Johnson outboards, boat bottoms filled with empty beer cans, would call out asking if I wanted a tow.

Charlie Roy and Dad

  My family hated her, got seasick, couldn't tolerated the fumes, would get covered with oil. Only my friend Charlie Roy would go out with me; Charlie was crazy about boats. "All engines ahead," he would sing out as he steered us into the channel. Top speed even with the tide behind us was never more than six knots. Boat owners, hearing us return, would rush panicked to their slips to fend us off as we came thumping, swearing, crunching back to the dock.

The Manatee spent a winter shored up on dry land so engineers could could dredge Guilford's harbor. Her seams never closed as tightly again. Dad spent more time bailing than sailing and eventually sold the boat.

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