3 Lessons About Boating From a Puppy

The smell of varnish wafted through the crisp-spring air as my brush glided back and forth on the boom. The boat wasn’t scheduled to launch for another two days, so this 5th coat of varnish was being tended to at a leisurely pace. As I worked, my mind wandered to the tasks of the day, which included a morning of brightwork and cleaning then an afternoon of puppy sitting for my parents.

Clark Boat Yard co-owner Gary Clark paced on the ground below me. I threw him a short wave and a “hey, how’s it going?”

“Good, are you ready to go in?” he asked.

I glanced out to Narragansett Bay and the dozen or so masts already gently rocking on their moorings. I had been eager to join them all week. “Uh well, yeah, I mean,” I stammered as I wondered what I would do with the dog all day on the boat.

“Great. I’ll get the trailer now.”

And just like that, my day of leisure was over. Boating season was about to begin, whether I was ready or not.

In just minutes, the Clark brothers, Gary and Jim had the Karen Marie — and her half varnished boom — loaded up onto a trailer, then lined up on tracks heading towards the water. Protocol is usually that one of the brothers would take the boat out to the mooring but my dad and I had watched enough.

We climbed aboard the boat and backed her out into the harbor. My mooring ball was not yet ready so we had to do a few laps around the marina while it was being finished. The delay didn’t bother me, the sun was shining and a stiff salty breeze blew through my hair. My fingers wrapped around the wheel and the boat reacted to every twist and turn of my hand. It was a great feeling.

A launch later took my dad back to shore and brought Karen and the puppy, Zoe, out to the boat. I went back to varnishing the boom but between Karen bringing supplies up and down the companionway, the rocking of the boat, a waterfront view and an excited dog wagging her tail at a mile a minute, my zen-like focus had been replaced with a Chinese fire drill in rapid succession. It was thanks to all these factors (because it couldn’t be my fault, right?) that a glob of Epifanes high-gloss varnish dripped down the side of the boom and landed squarely … on Zoe’s ear.

My hopes of one day sailing alongside a dog of my own dissipated quicker than you can say “get the paint thinner!” Zoe didn’t seem to mind that her ear was now getting much stiffer than it should be; in fact she relished the attention she was getting as Karen and I scrubbed her ear with the thinner.

Some time later, I emerged from cleaning the cabin to find Zoe sitting in the cockpit watching a small fleet of sailboats go by. “Now there is a dog that has her priorities straight,” I thought as I sat down for a minute. That minute would turn into almost an hour of nothing but watching boats pass by and listening to radio checks on the VHF.

photo 2

Zoe taught me three valuable lessons during our weekend together: treat every opportunity as an exciting new adventure, sometimes the only schedule worth keeping are your meal times and getting a little varnish on your head should never ruin a beautiful day of boat watching.

Bring on the 2014 season.

 

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