It’s Better My Way
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Back when the world was perfect and I was a kid, I spent my summers in bare feet and a wet bathing suit on an island on Stony Lake, in southern Ontario. Like everyone else who lived on the hundred or so neighboring islands, my family left our car in the dusty parking lot at the marina on the mainland and drove boats all summer instead.
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The dinghies on our lake were serviceable, not showy: hand-me-downs with dented motors and countless coats of varnish. They ferried us to sailing lessons and square dances but were supremely ill-suited for recreation. Instead of water-skiing, we towed a windsurfing board and pretended to surf, or submerged the Betsy, our mother’s prized cedar-strip canoe, and rode it to the surface like a whale.
When we were old enough to captain our own craft-barely nine or so-our parents bought us a tiny wooden runabout equipped with an olive-green 5-1/2-horsepower Johnson, so old it had fins. My sister and I took turns sitting on the bow, dangling our feet in the water while the other steered. The boat was ancient and leaked around the ribs; the summer I was 12, we filled it with brush and set it on fire.
In its place we got a Blue Fin, an unglamorous metal dory with a blue-and-silver paint job and a bad soul. Its slippery seats scorched you in the sun; if you loosened your grip on the ten-horsepower motor, the evil Fin would whip around in tight circles like a deranged Tilt-a-Whirl. It once gave my sister a black eye and pinned our poodle against the dock. We sought revenge by driving it over rocks and banging it into wharfs-but the Blue Fin was indestructible.
Now that there are grandchildren in the picture, our parents have modernized the fleet. The Blue Fin is still in rotation, but a 405-horsepower inboard with a speedometer and a sound system is the family boat of choice. We store our fancy new water skis and inflatable tube in the boathouse alongside the old Johnson 5 1/2, which sits propped on a stand like a relic, leaking oil and waiting for the next generation.