Monthly Archives: December 2013

We’re here to fish…

Every so often, one of us will say or do something so notoriously noteworthy that our friends and family will never let us live it down. Sometimes a simple statement will live on, years, even decades later, haunting us, taking on a life of its own. My husband made one of those infamous quotes, and it’s gone on to embody a certain philosophy our family holds to, especially at times like these: the holidays.

It wasn’t long after we’d met; we were both still in high school at the time. It was one of those perfect summer days: the sun was warm without being hot and there wasn’t a trace of humidity. The sky was a flawless, cloudless cerulean blue that went on forever. It was an ideal day to go fishing. With his kid brother along, we slid his flat-bottomed boat into the bed of the pickup, loaded up our tackle and headed up to a nearby lake. How could anything go wrong?

Well, to start with, upon arrival we discovered the battery for the trolling motor never made it from the garage to the truck. Frank had asked his brother to load it; his brother thought Frank had grabbed it. But we had oars and we had rods and tackle, so we forged ahead.

It wasn’t long before it became obvious the fish weren’t biting. Obvious to his brother and I, at least. But it was a beautiful day and it was peaceful just drifting in a little boat on that sparkling lake. I put my rod aside, leaned over and trailed my finger in the cool water. Frank’s brother leaned back and gazed up at the sky, soaking in the sun’s rays. But Frank refused to accept defeat. He continued to cast and reel with great determination. I watched, bemused. Cast, reel. Cast, reel. Cast, reel. At last he finally paused, regarding me and his brother, our rods down and towels clearly thrown in even as we enjoyed that summer afternoon and he uttered that memorable quote:  “Damn it, we’re here to fish, not to have fun.”

No sooner than those words left his mouth, a look crossed his face as his brain processed what he’d said. I promptly burst out laughing and he shook his head in defeat. “You’re never going to let me forget that, are you?” he said.

I haven’t. In fact, that statement’s gone on to symbolize whenever the quest for fun turns into an epic battle. When doing what you love becomes more of a chore than a pleasure, you’ve reached the ‘here to fish’ moment. We’ve all been there: we get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we lose sight of why we’re doing it to begin with. Most anything we do for pleasure can gradually turn on us if we’re not careful. Vacations fall victim to the ‘here to fish’ mindset; the hopes and expectations are so high, the time limited, and people make themselves crazed in an attempt to do it all. And it happens a lot this time of year, with the pressure to have a perfect holiday often overriding the point of the holiday to begin with. But whatever you’re doing, be it celebrating with family and friends, or fixing a boat or writing or even fishing, always remember why. The object of the game, plain and simple, is to have fun.

Happy Holidays, and a safe and healthy New Year to all!

Sorting boats…

December has arrived, and once again the docks are all but empty on my little corner of the Hudson River. Activity at the yard, which had been buzzing along in high gear for the last two months, starts to scale back. For a few weeks there were people and cars and sounds of all sorts around us on the hard, but now the silence is returning. In another week or two, the only signs of life we’ll see around the yard are a few marina employees and the hardy little feral ‘yard cats’, occasionally soaking up a bit of low winter sun on a warm car hood. The season has ended and rows of boats have been sorted.

In most cases, when yards block up boats for winter storage, there’s a very specific order to where each one winds up, and why. Size plays a role, as does the all-important ‘When do you want to go back in’ factor. Last out is usually first in. Some owners wrap things up after Labor Day and don’t pull the cover until the end of May while others are geared up for fishing at the first signs of spring – don’t block them in! But there’s more to it. It’s no accident that the shiniest and newest of boats with custom covers or shrink wrap are closer to the main entrance and offices. For one, it just looks better and reflects well on the yard. It also keeps these boats where they’re less inclined to be visited by someone other than their owner. Further back goes to the boats with flapping plastic tarps or no covers at all. And finally, tucked in the furthest corners of the yard, backed to the brush and overgrowth, are the boats that have been on the hard for many seasons – the hopeless and the forgotten. They sit as testaments to abandoned dreams. At some point in their existence, each had been someone’s pride and joy. Now they stand as silent reminders of failed aspirations. Perhaps their owner had fallen upon bad times or eventually the reality of boat ownership outweighed the dream, draining and straining finances and relationships, sometimes past the point of no return. Like a novel in a desk drawer, these grand dreams fell victim to the harsh realities of day-to-day life.

Yet, glimmers of hope spring up in these forgotten corners, like a rose blooming among the oil drums and weeds. Every so often someone with the right mix of skill, perseverance, delusional optimism and determination sets their eyes on one of those forgotten boats, and you’ll see it re-emerge from death-row to float and sail once more. I recall one boat where the cabin and bridge had been partially destroyed by fire, though the hull and engine remained intact. It was placed in the corner to languish for years. But then one day someone new arrived. The fellow who repaired her did so the only way he knew how — with sheet-metal. It wasn’t exactly pretty, but year after year he’s out on the water happily fishing away. On the other end of the spectrum a friend of mine acquired an old ketch that had been caught in the wrong end of a shed collapse, and he restored that boat to exceptional magnificence. In both cases, these boats were brought back from the dead and each is a victory. It’s that ability to see beyond the work to the potential, to press on in the face of all adversity, hoping someday it will be beautiful — or at least float. I sometimes wonder how many of those resurrected boats belong to writers.