hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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October 10, 2013

Boating experiences take me adrift

It all started with an aluminum 12-foot dingy attached to one side of a wooden dock. Parallel to it was a 35-foot cruiser with a beefed-up engine that appeared newer than the vessel to which it was attached.

The boats came with the cottage by the lake I purchased in that fall of 1970, somewhere secluded in Southern New Hampshire.

Prior to this, my boating experiences included a rubber tube I had used in the ocean and a wooden sailboat I had navigated as a 6-year-old in someone’s backyard pool. Nautical adventures and I were as distant as the tide.

I enjoyed my little boat. It came to me already named by its previous owner. He called her “Afta You,” and it’s always been ladies first in my lakeside manner. You didn’t go very fast with a 7-horse power motor, but it was good enough for puttering and fishing about. Rowing at the crack of dawn became a daily exercise ritual with me.

As for its bigger mate, I wound up selling it to a custodian at work. He was looking for a bigger boat to navigate the Merrimack River. I gave him a good price, trailer and all. He spent all winter sprucing it up, before launching it in the spring.

I was there the day he set it upon the river — before it sank, right in the middle of the Merrimack. The harbormaster came to the rescue and it cost my janitor friend more than what he paid for the boat to have it retrieved. Termites had done a number on the vessel’s wooden build.

Next came the sailboat, a modest craft I ran across in someone’s yard one day. The owner was glad to part with it and I picked it up for a token. The sailor in me graduated to a “Sunfish,” which is going on 20 years.

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