Dad On Board

by Leslie Godfrey in

What does your Dad think of this crazy sailing idea?

This question is posed to me quite often.  You have to feel a little bad for a guy who's daughter has some crazy idea that she is going to sail off into the middle of an ocean with that guy who married her.  Dads of daughters out there....can you imagine?  Since it is Father's Day, I thought I might tell you a little more about my Dad.  

My dad has three daughters and no sons.  Much to his credit, he didn't let this daughter conundrum stop him. He always said his girls "can do anything a boy can do, only better." So, as a little girl, he taught me to play softball, I was always invited to go pheasant hunting in Delta, Utah, and when I was old enough, deer hunting.  The traditional family hunting spot is in Whiskey Creek (pronounced "Crick" in this instance).  My Dad's family has been hunting there for at least three generations if not more.  

To reach deer camp, we would travel quite a few miles off road into the mountains, up a dirt road requiring four wheel drive or a bit of finesse.  Once there, we pitched our smaller tent next to a large, canvas tent that held several bunks, a fire burning stove, and a camp kitchen for my dad's cousins.  My uncle Ray would ask my dad if he wanted a "soda pop", reach into the cooler and pull out a Budweiser.  He'd crack it open and throw in a dash of salt.  Uncle Ray would give me a big hug and laugh.  My face would squish against his suspender straps and wool plaid shirt.  He smelled like roasted coffee grounds.  

We would go to bed early because we would have to wake up in the dark of night (3:30 a.m.) or so to eat breakfast and start hiking.  We had to be in place at the top of the mountain by sunrise. It is really cold in the mountains at 3:30 a.m.  I would throw on my long johns (which by afternoon, I would always regret), my jeans, my hunter orange wool button down shirt, a bright orange beany cap, and my hiking boots.  Then, I would set off, usually the only gal in a pack of men with beards and rifles.  

We would hike several miles together and then split off to go to our respective rocks.  My dad had his own rock, but by the time I was going hunting with him he took me to my grandfather's rock each time instead.  It would still be dark by the time we would arrive, my pant legs would be damp with the frost I brushed through as we hiked, and I would get cold as soon as we tucked ourselves into the crevices of the rocks.  Making an exception for me, even though the deer would smell it, my dad made me the tiniest of fires to warm me up.  You could cup it in your hand if it wouldn't burn your wool glove. 

Sitting at the top of the mountain, you could see the top of the peaks of the range that surround the area.  Whispering, my dad would tell me stories about other hunting trips with his dad. The stars were numerous until the pink light of sunrise started to brush them away, first at the horizon, then spreading to the dome of the sky.  Quietly, as that early light would turn from pink to yellow, a group of deer might sneak over the ridge.  Some years, neither he nor I had a license to hunt, so we were just there for the fun of it.  My Dad would point and say: "Look, Les!  Isn't that beautiful?"  

My Dad has a million pursuits he could pursue, but he put all of them aside to work.  My mom stayed at home to raise all three of their daughters, and my Dad kept that engine running.  He would get up at 4:30 a.m. to be to work by 5:30 a.m. so that he could be home by 5 to coach my softball team, attend (and videotape) my dance or piano concerts, etc.  While he has always worked in mining or chemical manufacturing, he is an artist at heart.  He is a very good photographer, an excellent chef, an artist of landscape design and lawn maintenance, and a storyteller. He is the guy that taught me you can enjoy life even if you are not perfectly comfortable.  You will not see deer sneaking over the crest of a mountain at sunrise if you do not hike six miles in the dark and settle in by a rock even though you are very cold.  

Andrew and I started talking about this sailing idea within a year of its conception, but I don't think my Dad believed we would actually go until approximately six months before we left.   "You can't go until you take me out and show me you know how to sail in the ocean." He announced on a late summer morning as we sipped our coffee on his beautiful back patio.  The deep crease on his forehead furrowed with concern.

"Dad!  We took you sailing for the Fourth of July last year!  We showed you we could sail!"  

"No, no.  That is not in the ocean.  Anyone can sail in the bay.  You have to take me out in the ocean and show me you can sail."  

I laughed.  "Ok, ok.  I would be happy to, but don't you get seasick?"  He said he did not care and restated his demand.   There is nothing I would like more than to hang out with my Dad for a weekend on the boat.  But I wanted to do more than just take him out sailing in the ocean.  I wanted to show him how much fun this sailing gig could be.  We planned a weekend that would combine sailing, fishing, a nice dinner cooked in Sonrisa's galley, anchoring out, and a row to shore in the dinghy.   I knew he would pepper me with many questions, but I was ready. 

On the first day, we sailed 35 miles at sea.  On the second day we anchored off Point Loma and tried to fish by the kelp bed, once we had enough of that we sailed/motored (lack of wind) to Glorietta Bay by Coronado Island and anchored.  I made a Bouillabaisse (shellfish stew) and we cracked open two bottles of wine we snagged during our trip to Santa Barbara earlier that spring. We saw a whale in the marina, and watched a nice sunset.  Andrew set up the projector, and we watched part of Popeye in the cockpit.  The next day, we rowed the dinghy to shore and went swimming at Coronado Beach.  All was going well until we headed back to the boat and fixed lunch on anchor.  

After lunch, I jumped in for a swim.  Just like that, the wind piped up to 25-30 knots.  As I started swimming back to Sonrisa, she seemed to be swimming away from me. "Uh-oh," I think. I catch up to her, climb aboard and look around.  My Dad is relaxing in the cockpit, Andrew is down below cleaning up lunch.   I realize we were getting closer and closer to the boat behind us.  We were dragging on our anchor, and that is not supposed to happen! 

"Honey? I think we are dragging.  Let's pull up anchor." I said with the calm of a Buddha.  The dinghy was still tied up behind us.  We started the engine, moved to another spot, and re-anchored temporarily to put away the dinghy.  We scuttled away, reefed the main, pulled out the little jib and sailed out to the ocean again because we were having so much fun.  Did my Dad notice this little hiccup?  I don't know.  But, Sonrisa sailed along smoothly in the heavier wind, and I think he enjoyed the ride.

After this, we bought a shiny new Spade anchor.... 

We had a great weekend.  I think my Dad had fun, I definitely had fun, and I tried to answer all of his many questions.  Hopefully, the trip calmed his fears, but the reality is, we are going into the ocean.  There are ways to stay safe. If you sail in the proper season with a good boat and proper gear, you are off to a good start.  We will do our best, but as Andrew says: life is inherently fatal. I don't want to let the impermanence of life frighten me into staying put, but instead, to inspire me to squeeze in as many great experiences as I can absorb.  

The day we cast off for this voyage, my Dad stood on Sonrisa's bow and gave a toast.  Despite his concern for his oldest daughter, he mustered up his own faith and courage.  I think he can see through whatever risk there might be to the huge opportunity this trip offers.   He knows fine metal cannot be forged without the heat and pressure of transformation.