Hoping for a Ride

After his daughter buys a sailboat, Mark Pillsbury reflects on the effect of growing up a sailing family. "Editor's Log" from our November 2011 issue.

October 19, 2011

Dawn Treader

Dawn Treader, a 1971 O’Day 22, was launched on Labor Day weekend. Mark Pillsbury

Did I tell you that my older daughter bought a sailboat? Fresh out of grad school and flush with newfound disposable income from her first non-table-waiting job, she did something far more responsible than buying a car or condo. She and her accomplice scoured Craigslist and found what looks to be a
suitable little fixer-upper, a 1971 O’Day 22 with a baby-blue hull and white cabin top.

Rebecca had boat-hunted for a while, and her patience finally paid off. Dawn Treader was discovered sitting on a pretty darned good-looking trailer, sported
a decent suit of sails, and came with a six-horsepower motor that, with a little T.L.C., might just keep running for a bit. The goal was met: She’d found a boat that
wouldn’t require hiring a hauler at either end of the season, could be easily stored and cheaply maintained, and all at a price under $900. Better yet, in the end, she and her friend, Joel, went halves.

The boat and happy owners arrived in our yard one day late in August. Soon, a pile awaited the trashmen: waterlogged and moldy orange cushions, a portable toilet you wouldn’t want to sit on, lots of odd lengths of line. You get the picture.


They attacked with vigor, sponges, and several bottles of soap and stain remover that had collected over the years. The results were both immediate and rewarding. Within the week, Joel cut plywood to replace what was rotten in the V-berth. A new table was built and installed. Teak was oiled, and the interior was painted.

The launch came Labor Day weekend. Rebecca and Joel arrived at the town boat ramp early Saturday morning, parked the trailer at the water’s edge, and then
waited while the incoming tide did its thing.

“The Dawn Treader is in and she floats” read the text message that came through shortly after noon. You could sense quite a bit of relief in those 37 characters.
On the next day, they went sailing, of course. “The boat really moves,” Rebecca reported that evening as we talked on the phone and she described all the twists
and turns of the maiden voyage.


As a parent, you wonder, at the time, what effect you’re having when you drag an infant aboard and then, over the years, subject her to countless miserably wet sails, treat her to numerous near disasters, and insist that every summer vacation be a family-filled forced march from harbor to harbor. When she chose to forgo racing and quit the local sailing program in middle school, I’d wondered if things might not turn out so well. But go figure—a dozen years later and there she is, tiller in hand, her sights set on sailing to the Boston Harbor islands, sleeping aboard, then anchoring off some beach and kicking back after a week at work.

When our two daughters were little, people used to jokingly tell us to be nice to them because it’s the girls in the family who usually pick the nursing home. We’ll
see. Now that Rebecca’s all grown up, well, I’m putting on my best face and just angling for an invitation to go sailing.


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