Pop Pop's Sailboat
That would be my grandfather's, however this story is about his son, my Pop's use of his boat as a young boy on the Hudson River. My dad grew up in Edgewater, NJ, a town aptly named for its narrow bordering of the Hudson from Fort Lee to the north to Cliffside Park to the south. On a map, the town looked like an eel, being so narrow. A heavy hitting golfer could tee up a ball at the shore and posit it on the Fort Lee cliff overlooking the town. For a kid like my father growing up during the 20's and 30's, Edgewater provided an easy access to water, and boats that were moored along row after row of boathouses and canoe clubs. I remember, as a kid myself, seeing as many boats as stars in a moonless sky. When my dad was a kid, the river was an inexpensive paradise, before most everyone decided that looking at the New York City skyline should be expensive.
My Pop Pop, like most other residents, had a small sailboat, a locker for his gear, and a slip for the boat. My father took every opportunity he could to be around that boat. He sanded, painted, varnished, and did everything else to keep the boat, "ship shape."
One hot, late spring day, before school was out, my father decided to play hookie, and went to the boathouse to go for a solo sail, unbeknownst to anyone in his family.
The day was going fine when two things happened that my father forgot to plan for: the fickleness of the wind, and a pair of oars for that possibility.
How do you say, Dead Calm.
Meanwhile, from his office on the tenth floor of Alcoa, the aluminum company that in those days had a plant on the river's Jersey side, Pop Pop was conversing with an associate.
"John," his co-worker said, " isn't that your boat in the middle of the river. It sure looks like your sail."
Pop Pop had a pair of binoculars handy, and sure enough, there was my father hanging onto a mid channel marker, waiting for someone, with oars or a motor, to come to his aid.
When dad finally did return home, around suppertime, Pop Pop said, " The broken lock (he knew my dad didn't have a key) is going to be replaced from your allowance, and you'd better think about what you're going to say to your teacher tomorrow."
My dad said in later years, my grandfather was really more annoyed that he didn't ask if he could go for a sail that day, because he would have said yes.