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Child’s Play

A few months ago, I asked Soundings’ readers to share their thoughts about the people who taught them something special about boating. I continue to receive emails regularly and am grateful to those who have taken the time to tell their stories.

Recently, I heard from P.D. Saracin of St. Helena, South Carolina, who says he got hooked on boats through the encouragement of his mother. “It was all her doing,” he says. He still remembers the day his family left the comfort of a table at Morrison’s Seafood Restaurant on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, to step out into a cold, blustery November afternoon. The bay was kicking up white caps and snowflakes were starting to drift down when Saracin’s mother spotted a 20-foot skiff across the parking lot with a For Sale sign.

“Minutes later, the wood boat was in the water, the yard manager was at the helm and my parents and I were huddled on the engine casing, partially covered by the coach roof as we pounded along on a test ride. I was 8 years old at the time. Neither of my parents had ever owned a boat. The yard manager expressed some concerns about the conditions for a ride, but Mother quelled those.”

His parents bought the boat that day, without an engine check or oil analysis. They had no idea whether the lapstrake hull was sound, and they weren’t sure how to run or maintain the boat. But the yard put it up on blocks and winterized it. “I imagine the workers had plenty to talk about at the bar that evening,” says Saracin.

And so began the family’s love affair with all things boating. Saracin’s father enrolled in the Lackawanna Power Squadron. Later, he taught some of the classes. For his son, it was a non-stop experience of learning. “I felt I had grown immensely by the time I was able to successfully plot a course on a paper chart using parallel rules and a compass.”

When he was 9, Saracin was backing the skiff into the family slip. His parents were always watchful, but never raised their voices if he clipped a piling or backed down the engine at revolutions that should have sheared the cotter pin.

During summers, there were outings to the flats, where the family would swim, fish and clam. In the fall, they’d drift-fish for flounder. “When we’d stay out after dark, I was propped up out of the small forward hatch with a spotlight, highlighting the reflective tape on the channel markers to help find our way back,” he says.

In his teens, Saracin worked summers as a deckhand, first on a 70-foot drift-fishing boat, then on a 43-foot custom sportfisherman. One of the crew promised Saracin he’d enjoy the work, the pay and the chance to meet girls. “This, to a 16-year-old, sounded like nirvana,” says Saracin. “It turned out there were days I never got a tip, the hours were long, and there were never, ever any girls. But all that aside, I loved it. Fifty years later, I remain hooked on all things boating, thanks to my mother’s initiative and my father’s patience.”

This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue.


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