“If the boat sinks, don’t panic, just swim steadily to the nearest shore.” My father liked doling out this sort of comforting advice as the nearest land disappeared over the horizon.
Dad regularly declared, “Listen boy, you’ve got to respect the sea,” so often, that one day I leaned over the side of our boat and beamed, “Well, good morning Mr. Sea! I just want you to know that I really, really respect you!”
I didn’t quite catch what the old man muttered afterwards.
Then came the day all fishermen dread. We were on open water racing against, time, wind and tide as monster waves threatened to engulf our little craft. As dad grappled with the wheel, I flopped about on the deck wrestling life jackets onto my arms and legs and praying to ‘Ineptune’, the nautical god of small boat owners who do their own motor maintenance.
“Well, good morning Mr. Sea! I just want you to know that I really, really respect you!”
We eventually reached sheltered waters, battered, shocked and soaked to the skin, and as we gawped in relief through the salt caked windscreen I recall that one of us was gibbering slightly.
Since then, I’ve had a very, very healthy respect for the sea.
Time marched on, and last year, on the final voyage in our little tinny, ‘Collapso’, I was at the helm as Dad shoved us off from the boat ramp. “What are you doing?” I cried.
He looked genuinely surprised, “What’s it look like?”
“You don’t push a boat off the ramp until the engine’s running!” I grunted, hauling frantically on the pull starter as we drifted toward some nearby rocks.
Dad leaped aboard, “Who the hell taught you that?”
As the engine sputtered to life the old man laughed, “I often wondered if you were listening!”
Of course I was; it’s all about respect isn’t it?