As I was recently scanning in old documents, I found this short story that I wrote in the 5th grade titled “My Favorite Place.” Immediately, I figured that I must’ve written about Busch Gardens or our pool or the library or even school (yes, I was a huge Hermione). But no. Take a look for yourself to see what I chose as my favorite place.
My favorite place was….our BOAT?!
If you know me at all, you are probably as surprised as I am. I’m not an outdoorsy person.
I’ve searched high and low for a photo of the boat we owned but can not find one. So let me paint you a scene: a small speedboat that could fit 4-6 people. A driver’s and passenger seat covered by a small canopy. A bench seat in the back, plus room to store a large tube and water skis. An area up front for 1-2 people to stand and be whipped by the air as we jumped waves. It was white with purple and teal stripes. If it had a name painted on it, I don’t remember it. It should have been named A Huge Mistake.
My family is not the ideal group of people for boat ownership. At the time — mid-late nineties — I was entering middle school and my brother, who is now all about the outdoors and works a mechanical job fixing ski lifts, was still learning to read. My dad, a computer security expert, hires people to fix things, and my mom doesn’t care for the outdoors. So I’m unsure as to whose bright idea it was for us to BUY and OWN a machine prone to mechanical issues and that requires constant care and maintenance. Yet somehow we can into possession of a speedboat and apparently in my naive youth, I was quite excited about it.
Some twenty odd years later, I have no recollection of seeing dolphins while out on this boat. In fact, I hold no fond recollections of this boat. What I remember is frustration, calamity, a tragicomedy of errors. Frankly I’m surprised none of us got injured while owning this boat.
Okay, wait. I do have one kind of fun memory: the McDonald’s in Madeira Beach had a boat dock, and my brother and I thought we were the absolute shit to be able to pull up, dock, and walk in to order our Happy Meals. Who takes a boat to McDonald’s? These idiots, right here.
But I digress.
Let’s get back to the calamity and why owning a boat was one of the biggest mistakes our family ever made.
Incident Number One: The Time We Got Caught in a Huge Storm and Almost Died.
Remember the movie The Perfect Storm? That’s how I remember this near death experience, but memory is a tricky thing, so saying we almost died is probably a bit hyperbolic. We were out in the gulf, enjoying some Florida sunshine, apparently searching for dolphins, when we were caught in a sudden, fierce thunderstorm. The tiny canopy did nothing to shield us from the torrential downpour. My brother and I huddled beneath the dashboard, covering ourselves pointlessly with towels that were soon soaked, wondering if we were going to make it to shore alive. My dad navigated the choppy waters, while we tried to remain calm. What felt like HOURS later, the weather starts to clear, and we arrive at a boat station thing, nearly drowned, soaked and chilled to the bone. We exit the boat, legs shaking, teeth chattering, grateful to be on land. People who worked at the gas station emerged with dry towels and concern, help us off the boat and inside to dry off and warm up. We eat lunch, we use the facilities, we curse the weather gods and wait for the storm to clear before gassing up and heading home.
Incident Number Two: The Time We Got Stuck On a Sandbar
It’s exactly what it sounds like and one of many reasons why inexperienced boaters should not own a boat. The only way to get off the sandbar was to manually rock it off, and then push off with the oars we had for emergencies. Somehow, in the process, we managed to lose one of the oars.
Incident Number Three: The Time We Broke the Engine
If you turn on the engine before pulling in the rope you used to drag the tube, the rope will get tangled up in the impeller, causing it to break. Which then causes the eldest child to be forced to don a lifejacket and use what remains of the rope to pull the boat to the safety.
Incident Number Four: The Time We Lost the Anchor
You should always tie the anchor rope to something before dropping it. Whoops.
After this much frustration and discouragement, we tried to convince my dad that owning a boat was not for us. It was much better to know someone who had a boat. But not one to give up easily, he decided to store it at a friend’s condo that had a marina. In return for allowing us to store the boat at his dock, he could use it anytime he wanted.
A few weeks later he called to let us know that he’d accidentally sunk the boat.
This is why we never owned a boat again nor will ever own a boat in the future. And why I am shocked to find out that I considered this curse of a boat to be my favorite place. In fact, I’m starting to think this might be one of the reasons that, to this day, I don’t like being on small boats. Hmm.
Do you have any similar memories from your childhood? Things that you supposedly loved as a kid but remember horribly as an adult? Or perhaps the reverse, things you hated as a kid but look back fondly on as an adult?