Editorial October 1, 2000 Issue

A Saturday in Summer—Part 1

In New England, you never know when summer will start or end. In a good year, June isn’t too foggy, July and August are awesomely clear and sunny with cooling seabreezes, and September is Indian. Not so in 2000.

June stunk. The first two weeks of July were beautiful, I hear, but I was out of town. During the last weeks of July and the first of August a warm front moved over Rhode Island and just sat there. Like a fat lady on a park bench with her coattails touching the ground. It rained every day. You had to cut your lawn every third one and you couldn’t even think about sailing.

Having sold our 1975 Tartan 44 test boat last year, we are temporarily boatless…that is, if you don’t count our three dinghies—the three-part double-ender designed by Danny Greene and built by yours truly back in 1987; my 12-year-old son Steve’s 9-1/2-foot Skimmer sailing dinghy, which he has named Go Fish; and the 10-year-old Achilles inflatable I bought at a consignment shop.

Steve, as long-time readers may remember, loves to fish. I am not enthusiastic, but I tag along to carry the rods, nets, buckets, tackle boxes, and bait boxes of sand worms, frozen herring and thawing squid. The word caddie comes to mind, also sherpa, pack horse, schlepper… Steve puts a hand on my shoulder and says, “Cheer up, Dad, we’re gonna spend some quaaaality time together!”

At least he has a sense of humor…and it is fun.

Other important jobs I perform are launching the inflatable off the yacht club dock, buying gas for the outboard, buying bait, hooks and new line. Invariably my fine motor skills are called on to untangle a rat’s nest of monofilament, never mind that my eyesight isn’t what it used to be and I can barely see the stuff. In my pockets I carry an assortment of items useful to the fisherman—pliers, knife, a device that you stick down the fish’s throat to remove the hook, and a variety of Lemon Heads, Gobstoppers, and Jolly Ranchers. On these father-son outings we do not bring healthy snacks like apples and raisins.

I drive the boat while Steve trolls. But as soon as he decides we ought to move to another part of the harbor or bay, he gets to drive. This requires that we switch seats and that I move to the bow (this is why I bought the inflatable—superior stability). I hang on with both hands as Steve tests the throttle linkage. Usually I’m thrown heavenward with coffee in hand.

“Jesus H. Christ!”

“Just wanted to make sure it isn’t stuck,” Steve explains defensively.

A word about the coffee. I’m drinking home brew because it’s 5 a.m. and Dunkin Donuts isn’t open. In fact, the sun hasn’t even come up yet.

The morning somehow passes. If Steve’s lucky, he lands a blue fish or perhaps a striped bass long enough to keep. Once that is accomplished, he’s usually ready to leave. I might insist first on touring Newport Harbor just to look at the visiting boats—every vessel imaginable from wood schooners to metal ketches from Europe to three-story megayachts to rag tag cruisers with baggywrinkle in the rigging.

Steve, of course, must drive. He is ordained by nature to find excuses to get up on plane and I am fated to continually point out the No Wake signs. Without this dynamic tension life could not exist.

By noon the inflatable is back on the dock, the car loaded and Steve’s fish almost dead. Neither of us likes watching it die, but it’s difficult to ignore, especially with its tail sticking out of the bucket and passersby peering inside, “Hey, whadidya catch? Nice work, kid!” The gills still heave.

Driving away, we feel thoroughly refreshed and ready for the next activity. Like, maybe, fly tying and freshwater fishing. There might even be time for a little clamming on the way home. If I’m lucky, I’ll even get to cut the grass before dinner.

Saturdays, don’t you love ‘em?

—Dan Spurr

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