“Now keep your eyes out for the wreck!” hollered Gramps, as Skoro swung into the bay following a hard tack across the river from Cape Vincent, New York. Elisha had one eye on the American ferry, gaging how long it would take George to make the short trip between countries. Everyone watched the surface of the choppy water, looking for a darker patch on the flats; a wreck is much easier to see on a calm day.
“I see it! Over there Gramps!” Hannah pointed off to the starboard and after a bit of peering into the deep green the men concurred and swung the boat in the direction she’d pointed. It wasn’t long before we were on her, literally, and the kids’ excited chatter turned silent with an ominous thud of hull hitting something solid.
Gramps said what we were all thinking as the boat made contact a second time and stuck herself solidly between the ribs of the old ghost below. “Okay! Everyone on the left side of the boat, let’s see if we can shift the weight and float her free!” We all scurried to obey the admiral, those of us with sea legs leaning out as far as we could. Even with the motor’s aid, nothing budged.
The water rose and fell and we felt another gentle thud as Tony, armed with his mask and snorkel plunged over the side to take a look from below. Grammy and I whispered about our next attempt including moving all of the kids and ourselves into the dinghy, and lightening the load.
Hannah and Gabe struggled with their feet to keep the dinghy from repeatedly slamming into Dad’s head while he swam between the boats peering at the problem, directing Gramps from below. The little engine strained, we all leaned left and Tony stood on the ribs of one wreck pushing Skoro with all of his strength to try to avoid a second wreck.
“Never a doubt!” was Gramps’ triumphant shout when we finally felt the hull float free and the children cheered. “Now, who wants to go dive on this wreck?” He asked. The children looked doubtful.
“After sailing all the way out here and getting stuck on the wreck, you’re all going, and you’re going to love it,” I whispered to the crew with a warning Mama eye.
Instantly there were six willing participants as masks and snorkels emerged from the hull. One by one they splashed overboard in a shower of green and white bubbles.
It was Rachael and Sam’s first wreck dive, and only their second snorkeling experience outside of a pool. The first was in Hawaii a year or two ago, and it didn’t go especially well. I could read the apprehension on their faces.
Rachael was sitting on her noodle, breathing slowly, mentally talking herself down from the cliff. Gabe was right there with her, helping her. She worked to conquer the fear, jammed her snorkel in her mouth, blew out hard and swam off, gripping Gabe’s hand with white knuckles while everyone cheered her on.
Sam was not so sure.
“I don’t like it Nana!! I don’t want to do it!”
There was panic in his voice as he groped for the ladder, climbing back out. “It’s okay Sam, come out here and let’s talk about this,” Gramps replied.
So, they sat on the deck in the shade of the sail while we retold the story of Elisha’s freak out last week in the same spot, and Nana’s multiple freak outs when she was eight and learning to snorkel in the Sea of Cortez. Gramps spoke to Sam about the acceptability of freaking out, “Everyone is nervous about things sometimes,” and the importance of “Getting control of yourself and doing it.”
Armed with his pep talks, a life jacket instead of a noodle and Elisha, the most recent conqueror of his own fears, Sam made us all very proud by plunging back into the river. Overcoming the natural first time apprehension of an endless body of water, huge fish, and a spooky wreck, he snorkeled off in the direction of the other kids, joined at the hip with Elisha.
They didn’t just snorkel a little, they snorkeled a lot, clear to the opposite end of the wreck, chasing a big carp and hooting through their snorkel tubes. The smiles when they emerged, victorious, were priceless.
The sail home was just as perfect, running almost directly before the wind with only the jib hovering near six knots. The children chattered and giggled and hooted. Hannah sang some lovely irish ocean song while she skippered. Everyone huddled underneath their towels.
“I’ve got to go…” Sam announced, warily, as we neared Mud Island.
“Take a leak off the boat!” Gramps replied, stating the obvious, “Just do it down wind!”
Sam hopped up and headed around the edge on the wrong side, “HEY! Down wind! You know what down wind is, right?!” I added with alarm. He did.
I’d love to say that we sailed up to the dock and disembarked with flourish, but we didn’t. Gramps inadvertently ran her aground at the mouth of the canal, straight into the bank. “You see how this goes when we don’t have Josh on board?!” Gramps pointed out for the second or third time.
It was another long few minutes of pushing and pulling with boathooks and motor. The children dove off the bow and swam down the canal, heading for the dock a couple of hundred yards away. Hannah stayed and wedged her feet against the roots of the reeds at the bow and pushed with all her might, helping me free the bow. Gramps, thigh deep in mud, finally pushed free the stern as Grammy shouted, “I don’t want to drive this thing! I’ll run over one of the kids!!”
Tony took the helm, I stood on the bow and directed traffic around the hollering, laughing, noodle clad obstacle course while Gramps and Hannah enjoyed a lovely tow, hanging off the stern of the dinghy.