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Passions are ties that bind — let those horses run

It’s good to have a passion for something in life, for an activity that thrusts you into the moment and, in doing so, makes you feel alive. Joseph Campbell was right: “Follow your bliss” is a good mantra for living a life.

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For me, it’s always been fish and boats and being in or on the briny. I’ve been mesmerized by bright waters since I was a child. I remember my mother’s hand holding tightly to the back of my shorts as I lay prone over a seawall, a net stretched out as far as my young arms would allow, trying to scoop up something just out of reach.

I moved from dip nets, minnow traps and hand lines to rods and reels; from the seawall and safe docks of the harbor to pounding surf, rocky points and night tides. The barn at the old captain’s house where the three brothers grew up swelled with fishing tackle, snorkeling gear, surfboards, wetsuits, spear guns — and then boats finally started to appear in the backyard. It’s been like that for a lifetime, always leaning into it, always following our passion for the water.

* * *

I have long lectured friends whose children were developing an equine leaning about not mixing boats and horses. “It won’t work,” I’d intone knowingly and probably a little smugly, since I didn’t have the problem. “Don’t buy a horse. Don’t even lease one. You’ll never keep the boat, blah, blah, blah.”

What did I know? As it turns out, I was being the proverbial horse’s backside. We now own — or I should say, my daughter Carly now owns — a 9-year-old Morgan named Mayana. A smart green rider with gumption and a smart green horse with sass. It’s a combination that the barn elders say bears a little watching, but the prevailing wisdom is it’s a good match.

Mayana is a one-person mare, and Carly is that person. She is 15, and her life now revolves around horse barns, horsewomen and Mayana. She is learning a work ethic the best way — by mucking out stalls and doing the usual litany of horse chores under a tough, old mentor. Carly has found her passion, and we couldn’t be happier for her.

* * *

It’s a cool, windy morning in mid-October, and I am headed for the boat. Jim Morrison is on the CD player, belting out “Texas Radio and the Big Beat.” That rough poetic chant transports me back to 1973, when Timmy Lanphear and I crisscrossed the country in an old Jeep Commander, circa 1968. Surfboards strapped on top, loaded to the gills with camping gear, Morrison howling on the eight-track. We were headed for Central America by way of California and Baja. We blasted down the road like a pair of Roman candles. Somewhere deep in Mexico we ran into a bit more than we bargained for — a story for another day.

Fishing offshore this summer, Timmy and I found ourselves hooked up to the same shark, which had gobbled two baits in quick succession. It was a big animal, and we stood shoulder to shoulder and couldn’t move it. A homebuilder, Timmy still has the rawboned strength he had when we were little more than kids. We pumped in unison for maybe a half-hour and didn’t really get anywhere, and then the fish was gone.

Follow your bliss? My friend continues to live the life of a waterman, balancing work with boating, surfing and paddleboarding. Timmy and his wife live on their 34 Silverton for nine weeks each summer. A couple of years back, he picked up a sweet 20-foot Boston Whaler Ventura for short money at a boatyard auction. It goes nicely with his 13-footer. He likes to fish, dig clams, and when the swell is right he tosses his surfboard into the Whaler and flies off to a secret island break he found a few years back.

Funny, 40 years after that crazy surf trip, we still find ourselves standing side by side, knees pressed hard against the padded coaming, still leaning into something larger than both of us, something we still don’t quite understand.

“It was a short, cold Christmas; and as the short northern day merged into night, we found

ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean, whose freezing spray cased us in ice, as in

polished armor. The long rows of teeth on the bulwarks glistened in the moonlight; and like

the white ivory tusks of some huge elephant, vast curving icicles depended from the bows.”

— Herman Melville

December 2013 issue