A Memorable Place
Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
A Memorable Place
Brandie A. Williams
I lost my father to a heart attack on March 7th, 1989. I had just been married four weeks prior. One of the many gifts my father left me is a wonderful adoration of and deep connection to the sea.
I was a child when I first experienced an adventure on the ocean. My father loved to sail and fish on Saturday. I could barely sleep on Friday nights, knowing there was a promise of adventure awaiting me -- if I could just close my eyes long enough to give into the demands of needed slumber. Finally, the hour would arrive, before the signs of any daylight. We were up and dressing, adding layer after layer of clothing, only to dispense of them throughout the day at the command of the ever-changing weather at sea. Dad always wore his military fatigue coat and his navy cap. He would offer me one of his extra caps to wear. It was definitely not fashionable, but it was extremely traditional and kept me very warm.
Somehow leaving the house in the dark added a sense of mystery and excitement. I think knowing the donut shop was our first stop helped ignite that excitement. As we entered the donut shop, my father would greet his acquaintances with a huge smile and a firm handshake, as if he hadn't seen them in ages. I would immediately find my way to the glass cases, filled with heavenly pastry. My decision to choose just the right delicacy seemed to reflect my status as part of the crew. My dad always remembered to ask for extra whipped cream in my hot chocolate. With our tummies now filled and warmed by the extra sweet cocoa, we were off to the harbor.
Our parking stall awaited our arrival, like an old friend who is available when you need him. We would empty the trunk, which had been packed in a strategic manner that only my father understood. I just waited for him to fill my arms with everything he could entrust me with for a safe journey to the boat. He took great care of my safety and of me. For one day at sea, we packed enough lunch to last us three days. The gear included a tackle box, fish bait, fishing rods, coats, and a bag of miscellaneous items that an experienced seaman needed.
Once past the locked gate that stood watch over these aquatic vessels, we walked down the ramp, accompanied by an echo of our footsteps. I loved the familiar sounds of the water slapping against the sides of the boats. The gentle rocking from the tide made the boats seem anxious to be released from the ropes that bound them. The battened-down sails would also click against their masts. Once we reached our sailboat, Dad would board the craft first to remove the slipcovers that protected the beautiful mahogany trim and the fiberglass surfaces. After watching him unlock the galley below deck, I would begin to pass the supplies over the side of the boat. The trick was to not let anything fall into the water, especially the lunch. After the supplies were fastened down and put away, Dad would commence the safety checks for our departure. The sound of the boat's motor would bellow into the water beneath us, signaling me to be ready to push off from the slip at just the right angle, making sure all of the ropes were released and tied down properly.
As we eased out of our slip and headed for the main channel of the harbor, the sun usually rose enough to light our way into our promise of a wet, salty, and hopefully fishy adventure. On a clear quiet morning the water was calm. The air carried a light mist of salt and moisture that ensured its application over us. Once we motored past the rock jetty that acted like an arm protecting the harbor, we set ourselves up for full sailing ahead. As the sails began to ruffle from the slight wind of the open sea, I could clearly hear the commands being given by my father. I had a sense of urgency and speed that took over my actions. Once we were in full sail and on course, I could exhale and bathe in my father's remarks of how well the sailing techniques were executed.
I loved to sit at the very tip of the boat and let my legs dangle. The swells of the sea would cover my legs with the white foam and spray of the ocean. Occasionally, we would see dolphins swimming alongside our boat; it was fun to imagine them racing us or escorting us through our great adventure. The late afternoon sun would cast its shadows, and the change of the tide was our silent command to head for port. All the procedures for taking down sails and changing course would be completed.
Sailing into the harbor was a time for gratitude and reflection on another shared adventure on the sea. Sometimes, my father tested me on my nautical knots as we docked. I made sure my knots and sailing procedures were up to his standards. I felt that sharing his love for the ocean kept us connected with a sense of something larger than ourselves. Taking pride in nautical procedures displayed our honor for the ocean and our desire to enjoy its grandeur.
To this day, when I am on the ocean or sitting on the shore listening to the waves greet me as they come in with the tide, I am home and I am connected with my father.