“Hey, Liz, since the guys are going to play 18 holes today, why don’t we take the boat out to the island?”
It was a lovely Sunday in July. 1987, I think. The girls (hers and mine) were two and four. The families had been out to the island several times that summer, but we decided that we didn’t need no stinkin’ men to escort us five miles down the river, and one mile across open water to the island.
Plans were made, coolers packed and the boat was loaded. The girls were wearing their lovely personal flotation devices – which had large collars with handles (which I assumed could be snagged with a boat hook in the event one of them ended up in the drink).
It was a splendid morning. Not a cloud in the sky, nary a ripple in the water. We chugged easily past the cemetery and the marinas out to open water. It was only a short mile to the island. It was very shallow, and the small sailboat nudged into the sand only 20 feet from the beach. We anchored, off-loaded the children onto the beach, and brought the coolers, chairs, umbrellas and other beach detritus to shore.
Settled in, I opened the cooler to dispense some snacks for the girls. Liz caught sight of what was inside.
“You didn’t bring the entire one-gallon bottle of Vintner’s Choice did you?”
Vintner’s Choice was our recreational wine. It was so affordable. I think the gallon bottle set us back $6.99.
“Well, I didn’t have anything smaller to put some in, so I brought it. We don’t have to drink it all.”
But, yes. Yes we did.
We had lunch. We applied sunscreen to the girls. We had a little wine. Sunscreen. Wine. Sunscreen. Wine. Wine. Sunscreen. Wine. Wine. Wine.
We roused ourselves out of our stupor, and discovered that the sun was sitting pretty low in the sky. In fact, much lower than it usually was when we left the island for home.
I looked at Liz who was now salmon-colored and blistered*. Yes. She had applied sunscreen. To her daughter. She is the whitest person I know. We were on the beach for eight hours. Do the math.
I wasn’t burnt too badly, however, I was drunk as snot. I stood quickly to load the boat and promptly fell flat on my face in the sand. Liz got me up, splashed some ice-cold cooler water in my face, and we somehow got the boat loaded (but not as loaded as I). We even remembered to put the kids on. They were so exhausted they went right to sleep in the cabin. Oh, how I envied them.
When everything was stowed away, I got my second wind. The breeze had picked up, and was quite respectable.
“I know! Let’s sail back!” I said.
“You sure? Can we go all the way back?” said Liz. Such a skeptic.
“Shhure! I bet we can make it back without the motor the whole way!”
“You’re on! No motor ‘til we get to the dock!”
And so it was. While on the open water, the wind kept us going at a sprightly pace. We made great time. Then we turned to go up-river, and we lost our wind. Fortunately, the tide was coming in, and we were able to ride with it, but the exhilaration disappeared with the breeze. We were making headway, but it was unimpressive. I went to the tiller, and shoved it back and forth, back and forth, which helped a little. Each of us had a stubborn streak, but when we were together, it was 1 + 1 = 3. We would do this!
I looked up, and Liz stood on the cabin roof, blowing into the mainsail with all her might.
“Aho-o-oy, there!” came wafting from the marina to our sad little craft.
We looked up, and there in the deepening twilight stood our husbands – annoyed, perplexed and concerned.
“Where are the girls?”
“Below. Sleeping!” we shouted.
“Is something wrong with the motor?” --Why else would we be drifting home in the near dark, they wondered.
“No! We’re gonna sail home if it takes us all week!”
“Are you drunk?”
“Give us the girls!”
So I rocked the tiller, and Liz blew into the sail until we were alongside the dock, and made the hand-off.
“Give us a push. Make it a good one, and we might make it back in an hour.” I said, and the husbands gave a mighty heave-ho in the general direction of home port. Liz took stock of her sun poisoning, and I leaned over the side, and fed the fish.
By the time we got to the cemetery, the breeze picked up again, and we made headway. The last half-mile we made slow but steady progress. By the time we docked, it was dark. The husbands stood there, our sleeping children in the car, and asked, “What the hell was that all about?”
“We sailed all the way back! By ourselves!”
This is why I can no longer drink. By 1990, I had completely used up my liver.
* Note to self: Make dermatologist appointment...