My dad has finally done what he has been telling us he is going to do for the past fifteen years. He bought a boat. Not just any boat, a 41-foot yacht.
Now, when I was a child I used to eat Eggos and Cheez Whiz for breakfast. Does that sound like the kind of meal a child should be having if their parents can afford a 41-foot yacht? No, it doesn’t. I should’ve been having salmon-and-asparagus Eggs Benedict every morning before kindergarten based on the kind of lifestyle my parents now live.
But that’s “not the point, Christine.”
My dad bought this boat in Michigan, from a man referred to in our home as The Doctor. Mainly because he used to be a doctor – we’re real original. I asked my dad why The Doctor sold his boat and my dad responded, “Well, I think his wife made him sell it. He’s getting a bit Alzheimery,” as if one can turn a degenerative disease into an adjective.
The reason why I asked my dad this is because The Doctor 100% did not want to sell his boat. He insisted on accompanying my dad to Buffalo and wouldn’t let my dad repaint the bottom of the boat in order for it to withstand the salty waters of the Atlantic Ocean. This is what we call First World Yachting Problems.
My sisters, who went to Michigan with my dad to pick up the boat, did not like The Doctor. Mainly because his tagging along meant they had to share a room – something they haven’t done in four years. He was a cranky old man who had a lot of rules and thought that the boat was still his. They also did not appreciate The Doctor insisting they drive the boat overnight in a thunderstorm “because if you don’t do it now, you never will!”
“I never want to,” Cass said, shaking her hands wildly like she does when she’s upset, “so that’s not even a valid argument!”
The plan was for my sisters to go from Michigan to Montreal with my dad and then I would go from Montreal to New Glasgow, my mom’s hometown, with him. Claire lasted 22 days on the boat. She’s insanely helpful and likes to be involved. Cass, on the other hand, is just insane. She only lasted 16 days on the boat.
So when it was my turn to get on the boat, I asked my sisters, “What did you wish you had on the boat but didn’t?” thinking that I would be one step ahead of the game and not forget ANYTHING (I’m a horrible packer – like, morning-of, always-forget-my-toothbrush kind of packer).
They both answered “Wi-fi,” with straight, deadpanned faces, which didn’t help me one bit.
The first day on the boat was pretty cool. We had been chugging along for about an hour so, I was already a bit more freckly than when we set off and I was jamming to some Iggy Azalea, so I turned to my dad and I was like “Hey, are we in New Brunswick yet?” and he literally laughed in my face and didn’t even answer me. He thinks I was joking but I definitely wasn’t. I shortly realized that we had only reached Kahnawake and part of me wanted to cry. I was thirty minutes from home and we’d been travelling for what felt like hours.
We pulled up to a dock so that we could wait for someone to open up the lock for us and travel through the canal and my dad promptly and swiftly rammed the side of his brand new baby into the metal edge of the otherwise wooden dock.
“NO NO NO NO NO NO,” I heard him shout and immediately thought we were sinking.
I’m not wearing a lifejacket, I thought, I’m going to die thirty minutes away from home and no one will know. They will think I am in New Brunswick.
A Frenchman in the boat opposite ours heard my dad’s cries and immediately came rushing over and started asking me profusely if I was alright. Already, this Frenchman was more concerned about my well-being than my own father was. When he found out my dad was screaming about the boat, he started pushing us away from the dock and made sure my dad hadn’t ‘injured’ his boat.
This, looking back, was foreshadowing. If I had a dollar for everytime a Frenchman has helped my unilingual dad out of a bind on this trip, let’s just say I could fly to Nova Scotia instead of being on this boat.
Once we got through some more locks and canals, my dad decided it was time to actually put the sails up. Now, I’ve been around boats for a lot of my life. Boats such as canoes, kayaks and power boats. Never sailboats. Sails freak me the fuck out. How do you control the wind? You can’t. Boom. I just made a valid argument as to why sailboats are a ridiculous form of transportation.
“Steer the boat into the wind, Christine.”
“What? What does that mean?”
“Steer the boat in the direction of the wind.”
“How do I know where the wind is coming from?”
“Use your face.”
“Aren’t there things on the boat you can use to tell where the wind is coming from?”
“Yeah but none of them are as good as your face.” He stuck his face out a little bit and said, “Look, just feel it out.”
I watched him wiggle his face around in the wind a bit and realized that I am directly blood-related to this man.
I eventually figured out where the wind was coming from (using something other than my face) and promptly went to make sandwiches when it was all over. That night, we anchored next to a bird sanctuary, which was also foreshadowing, but that’s a story for another day.
The next morning, we were up-and-at-em at 7am, a time I never knew existed due to being lazy and hungover most of the time. I put on a pair of shorts, made some eggs and I was ready to face the day.
Despite me hating putting the sails up, my dad was super-pumped to get those pieces of fabric up in the air again. It was a bit tumultuous, the boat was a bit shaky, but I agreed. After about twenty minutes of the sails being perfectly fine where they were, he decided he wanted to try a jibe. He had told me the night before what a jibe was but he always describes things in such a minute way, giving very small, specific details when a broad overview would do. So I didn’t really understand what was going on. However, he did tell me what an accidental jibe was in regular human terms. That is when you capsize your boat.
So when my dad said, “Hey, Christine, we’re gonna jibe now,” I heard, “Hey, Christine, are you ready to die?”
I was not ready to die.
As soon as the jibe was attempted, the boat started literally spinning around in the water. Waves were crashing against the side of the boat, I couldn’t stand up straight let alone hold onto the steering wheel and my dad was running around trying to get the sails lined up.
“STEER INTO THE WIND!” He was yelling, “STEER INTO THE WIND!”
I immediately pictured him trying to guess the wind’s direction with his face and I started laughing. But, because I was also on the verge of tears thinking that I was going to die, it came out more … maniacal than intended.
So here I was, tears streaming down my face in the middle of the St. Lawrence River and my laugh resembling that of a woman in a mental hospital on Pudding Day; my dad scurrying around the boat trying to figure out how not to kill his firstborn AND keep his brand new yacht from capsizing.
Eventually we just went aground aka ran ourselves into a pile of sand.
And that was my first 36 hours on a boat with my dad.