Journal – April 2002 : I have always been a dreamer. The life of a dreamer is an uncertain, complex one. Dreaming can both enhance and restrain one’s journey through life. In many ways dreaming has sustained me, especially through rough periods of my life. Dreaming has propelled me to heights and challenges that I might never have otherwise undertaken. Dreaming helps me to believe in myself, believe that nearly anything is possible. In contrast dreaming can also hold one back in a netherland of procrastination and inactivity – always planning but seldom doing. Still it seems essential to my nature.
My impulse to dream disappeared at the point of my first knowledge of my prognosis. Perhaps it was just dormant, wounded and afraid like the rest of me. Why dare to dream about the future when my future might be drastically foreshortened? Why expose myself to the despair of thinking that most of my already catalogued dreams might never see fruition? Dreams that I have put off, been sidetracked from. Dreams that I thought would gradually and eventually be realized as I approached retirement age. These dreams lent depth, richness, and sparkle to my ideas about my future. In December these dreams seemed crushed and mocking.
My oldest dreams are about water, about sailing, about boats – building boats, being on boats, owning boats and fixing them. My family had a summer cottage on a lake in rural Indiana – Lake Hollybrook. My parents courted there during the early years of WWII. My family inherited this cottage. We had a metal rowing boat, built for fishing and complete with a wet well for storing our catch. At an early age I took the boat out by myself, rowing to the dam at the end of the lake and peering down its great height. Sometimes I rowed to the other end of the lake where it was fed by a creek, watching fearfully for water snakes.
Then my grandparents moved to Port Orange in Florida where my brothers and I would spend hours fishing from Dave’s Dock with dead shrimp as bait. Once I convinced my father to rent a boat with me and row down to Ponce Inlet, where the Halifax River met the Atlantic Ocean, a five or six mile trip. I had not reckoned on the strength of the tidal current. When we reached the center of the half-mile wide river, it was all I could do to row in place and keep from being swept upstream with the flood tide. Dejectedly we rowed back to Dave’s Dock, a little wiser for our adventure.
My brothers and I spent our summers in Florida. In the evening we would watch “Adventures in Paradise” on television – James Mitchner’s stories of a schooner captain’s adventures in the fabled South Seas. When I was older and had a family of my own, these vacations continued. One year we rented a small runabout that we cruised up into the alligator infested Tamoka Basin. When the motor died and we drifted under trees draped with Spanish moss, young Ben looked terrified that something slithery might drop into our boat at any minute.
In later years we brought our blue 14-foot ‘Nickel’ boat. This was an old 1960’s fiberglass runabout that I bought in distressed condition for $100. An old 40 hp Evinrude for $250 and a $75 trailer put us on the water. We took it out on the Halifax, part of the Intercoastal Waterway. We motored up and down, past palatial and modest waterfront homes, all ringed with date and palmetto palms. Our big adventure came when I finally made the trip from City Dock in Daytona down the river to Ponce Inlet. This was an actual voyage from somewhere to somewhere else. We tied up at a rickety dock at the inlet and climbed to the top of the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse. I could see my tiny craft in the shimmering water below. On the return we poked our neck out into the Atlantic, just to say we were there. The water turned from brownish to an ever-deeper green. As we started to feel the rolling motion of ocean swells that started their own journey off the coast of north Africa, the family took a quick vote and directed their captain back to the safer waters of the river.
From the time that Aaron was very young, we would wander the docks of Florida marinas, hoping for a glimpse of the shy manatee. But mostly we went to look at boats and dream together of one that we might own. Drives around Daytona and Ormond Beach were punctuated by cries from Aaron of “Boat for sale, Dad!” Florida and the river still have that enticing smell of saltwater and fish. Florida still holds magic for me and dreams of sailing to the South Pacific.
Over the years I have managed to collect boats, or rather boat projects, but have spent relatively little time sailing them. This can be a hazard for dreamers. I have a collection of half a dozen boats in various stages of disrepair. Most were bought with a dream and a song. There never seemed to be enough money to lavish on a new and sailable boat. There were periods when I had more time than money. Then periods in which I had neither. But the strength of dreaming about boats held out.
But in that early December this collection of motley hulls seemed to me to be more folly than dream, a collection of crushed dreams. I had already thought of a friend whom I would ask to help Tish dispose of my boat collection.