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Weather or Not

On a rough day of sailing on Long Island Sound, a girl feels safe in the company of her father
Wind and waves made coastal adventures more exciting for a young girl who coveted time with her busy dad.

Wind and waves made coastal adventures more exciting for a young girl who coveted time with her busy dad.

One day shortly after my tenth birthday, I woke just after dawn to the sound of rain pitter-pattering on the thin glass windows of our little yellow Cape house. As I came to, I realized it was Sunday morning. My dad’s store was closed, so he’d be home. I jumped out of bed and yanked on my Wranglers from a tangled heap on the floor. Rummaging through my dresser, I found my favorite rainbow sweatshirt and raced out of my room, skidding into the kitchen, Topsiders in hand.

Dad looked up from his coffee and smiled, muffin crumbs caught in the new beard he was growing. His eyes, heavy-lidded at half mast, twinkled at my excitement. “There’s some wind and waves this morning,” he said with a grin. “Yes!” I said, pumping my fist.

Dad handed me a glass of grapefruit juice and a blueberry muffin, which I scarfed down as he gathered our foul weather gear—long, heavy yellow raincoats with tall collars and long tails that would cover our butts. While we owned the matching waterproof pants, Dad and I never wore them as they were rubbery and hot. Anyway, getting soaked was half the fun.

We threw on our jackets and crept out the back door before Mom could wake up and give Dad “the look,” which usually ended our storm adventures before they began. I climbed up into Dad’s work van, which we’d nicknamed the “OT bus” for Outdoor Traders, the store in town that he ran with his brothers. We had pulled off the escape and I had him all to myself.

Marie Blue with her father, who she says was transformed on the water.

Marie Blue with her father, who she says was transformed on the water.

I’d hardly seen Dad lately as he was working six days a week. I got the sense his business wasn’t going so well as he often came home worried and distracted. He seemed far from the jokester who’d played pranks on my friends at my birthday party just a few months prior. I hoped that on this day, I’d have the old Dad back.

The drive to the club was quick. Our own boat was just a little fiberglass Sunfish named Green Onions, which would have capsized immediately in a strong wind, so Dad borrowed a good-sized daysailer from a friend. Life vests in hand and heads bowed into the now sheeting rain, we picked our way down the dock and hopped into the waiting launch. Within minutes, we were tied up and clambering onto the seesawing sailboat. We got the main prepped quickly as we knew we didn’t have much time to get out and back before the storm picked up to a true gale. I loosened the mooring line off the cleat in the bow, dropping the little pink buoy off the side, as Dad eased the motor into gear. We cruised out of the mooring field and once in open water, raised the mainsail, reefing it to make sure we didn’t catch too much wind.

The boat took off, heeling sharply. Slicing through the water on edge, wind howling in our ears, rain pelting us straight in the face and streaming down into our hoods, we were booking. I was in heaven—the faster, the better! Hand on the tiller, Dad was transformed, beaming from ear to ear as he navigated the boat up and back down through the heaving swells.

We crisscrossed the narrow band of Long Island Sound, waves crashing over the bow and sloshing into the cockpit. Hooking our heels, we leaned back to keep the boat from tipping over, ripping into each turn, tacking on a dime. Dad yelled instructions to me over the yowling wind. “Ready to come about,” he said, and jammed the tiller hard to one side. I ducked under the boom as it whipped across the cockpit and leapt to the other side. “Let the mainsheet out, quickly,” Dad shouted. I loosened the mainsheet first and then pulled it in until the sail was trimmed to just where he wanted it. “That’s a girl, Moogli!” Dad praised, using his pet-name for me.

Now I was beaming too, swimming in his compliments. We were an unbeatable team on the boat, the two of us a well-oiled, soaking-wet machine.

Sailing on the edge of a squall, time magically expanded. Nothing else mattered—not home, not school, not the store. Out here, just me and Dad and the whitecaps, I felt invincible. Battling the wind and the waves, I could be courageous instead of my normal cautious, reckless rather than my day-to-day responsible. I reveled in the ocean’s intensity and unpredictability and the way it pushed me, and I knew Dad did too.

Here on the water, Dad, with salt crusted in his windswept hair and beard, seemed twice the size he was on land. He was a confident, expert sailor, in control and in his element, up for any challenge. This was my real Dad, stripped down to his core. These rough-weather adventures reassured me that no matter what storms were thrown our way, he’d always be there for me, steering our ship back to shore. 

This article was originally published in the July 2022 issue.

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