GIRL ON FARMER By Celia Beresford When my dad and uncle decided it would be fun to buy a boat, they got a 27-foot speedboat named “The Intruder.” Shortly after joining the marina, we discovered that our boat’s name was more appropriate than we could have known. A marina is essentially a country club where, instead of playing golf, people dock their boats. Sure, my family was doing well at the time, but my dad had grown up in what amounted to the Little Italy of New Jersey. His mom died young and his dad, my grandfather, worked as a delivery truck driver—when he was working. We were not “marina people.” As one might expect, most marina folks had been “boating” for several generations. We didn’t even know that the word “boat” could be turned into a verb. They had yachts called “The Silver Fox” and “Horizons” or those sentimentally named for the family matriarch, with Kennedy-esque titles like “The Cristina” or “Jacqueline.” The Intruder delivered on its name—we were defi nitely intruding. In those days you could purchase and drive a boat without a license or any evidence that you were capable of commanding a high-powered water vehicle. This was the case with my father and uncle. Their sentiment was that they would buy the boat and then learn to drive it and navigate the sea all at the same time. It seemed that one critical component of this maritime education was vodka. While the boat did not have a suffi cient number of life jackets, it did have enough vodka on board to pickle a whale. Being drunk was important because, as we kids soon discovered, being sober could be frightening. The unoffi cial cocktail was called a “Sea Breeze,” which consisted of cranberry and grapefruit juice mixed with vodka. The kids became the bartenders, mixing drinks and serving the adults, while my dad and uncle negotiated their way out of the channels and no-wake zones into the open waters. Once we were in open territory, whoever was driving would blast on the gas, and the rest of the trip would vacillate frequently between exhilarating and terrifying. Just when it felt safe to be going what felt like 100 miles per hour over the water, we would hit a rogue wave and the boat would fl y several feet into the 38 JAVA MAGAZINE
While the boat did not have a sufficient number of life jackets, it did have enough vodka on board to pickle a whale. air and then slap back down onto the ocean’s surface. Sea Breezes would spray everywhere, and my brother would mix up a new batch while I retreated to the cabin area, hoping we wouldn’t flip over. I soon learned that the cabin was no safer. On deck you just had to be sure you were gripping onto something so you wouldn’t be ejected from the boat on impact. However, in the cabin you risked whiplash or a concussion as your head slammed into the ceiling. I had a feeling the passengers on The Cristina were not having the same experience. Water-skiing posed its own dangers. The actual skiing was fun. However, once you fell, you needed to let go of the rope and wait in the open water for the boat to circle around and get you. I can still remember bobbing in the ocean like a cork, watching The Intruder circle closer and closer, aiming to get near enough that I could reach the side ladder. The ladder and the engine were much too close for my liking, and although I implicitly trusted that my dad could do anything, I never overcame the fear that I was one Sea Breeze away from a tragic accident. I was afraid of limb loss by propeller, but my sister was the one who came closest to actually losing her leg. Not being familiar with engines, I can’t name the size or the horsepower or whatever is used to describe them. I can say that we were by far the noisiest boat, and each weekend, the booming, gurgling engine of The Intruder broke the tranquility of the marina when we came into dock. Parking a boat is not easy. The boat coasts on the water and the steering response is delayed. You need to know what you are doing. First, you need to get your boat between the two bigger docks, which is what separates each “parking area.” Then, you need to get into your slip, which is a boat parking spot, between two narrow “finger docks.” There is a lot to hit and not much room for error. As the Intruder was coasting into the area between the finger docks, my Sea Breezed uncle way overshot and was going too fast. It was obvious we were going to hit something, an event that the marina people had probably seen coming since we joined their club. My father, also sufficiently Sea Breezed, shouted to my sister, “Stick out your leg!” As my sister ran to the edge of the boat and actually stuck her leg out, a horrified and experienced boater came to her rescue, yelling, “No!” and waving his arms like a proper mariner. “No, she’ll break it!” This gesture was kinder than it seemed, since the sacrifice of saving her leg was that we ended up hitting his boat. Luckily, boats are pretty resilient and The Silver Fox got away with just a scratch. Although we did notice that later in the summer it was moved to a different slip on the other side of the marina. We didn’t mind. Living the good life was fun, but being posh and upper crusty was not our style. We were happy to intrude.