It all began when Kathleen Turner wanted to try my apple pie. When the star of Serial Mom asks for a slice of your pie, you oblige. Ms. Turner was in New Haven for Long Wharf Theatre’s 2012 production of The Killing of Sister George, and my husband and I invited the entire cast, stage management team, and director over for a home-cooked meal.
Thus began a tradition of welcoming Long Wharf’s visiting artists to New Haven with meals in our home. We also host the staff and board of directors for an annual season kickoff party, and we donate an invitation to one of the cast dinners to Long Wharf as a gala auction item.
This year, we decided to mix it up and donated a boat ride. We served dinner on the water, and our guests sipped wine and enjoyed the views. It was one of the most successful auction items at the gala (which was good for the theater), and we got to drive a boat (which was fun for us).
Of course, we always go the extra mile- nautical or otherwise-for Long Wharf. My husband has devoted 11 years of his career to the theater and, when we first moved to Connecticut, I was a member of the production staff—those are the folks who work behind the scenes to make all the magic happen. I left Long Wharf Theatre during the difficult, uncertain times following Doug Hughes’s sudden and unexpected departure. I eventually went to law school, but our family still has a deep connection and devotion to Long Wharf and its mission.
Businesspeople entertain clients at country clubs, social clubs, and sporting events- why not use your boat club membership for business entertaining? In my humble opinion, it’s much more fun.
Special thanks to Carefree Boat Club for helping us make this year’s Long Wharf Theatre auction item a success.
I’ve developed a new appreciation for this. I’ve parallel parked a SUV in Manhattan with one foot to spare on either end and a parade of angry cab drivers behind me. How difficult could it be to get a boat into a slip?
As I learned this summer, it’s the hardest part. Unlike cars, boats are not firmly attached to the ground- you point the bow one way to dock, but the boat doesn’t necessarily stay headed in that direction, and boats don’t stop immediately when you want them to—a function of floating in water/lacking brakes.
On one particularly windy day, I spun 360 degrees in the channel as I was leaving the harbor before I got us heading in the correct direction. Luckily, the few approaching boaters gave us a wide berth. They also graciously waited to point and laugh until I was out of earshot. And then there was the phase when I’d get nervous, push too hard on the throttle, and gun the engine.
Practice makes . . . better. I’m still far from perfect. I started to practice putting the engine into forward and reverse before heading back into the marina (for those of you who drive stick shift, it’s equivalent to getting a feel for where the clutch engages). No more gunning the engine. I also took Carefree’s advanced docking class and learned how to back a boat into a slip, as well as other useful docking skills. I’ll get there eventually—if parallel parking in Manhattan can become second nature, so can docking a boat.
And many thanks to the Carefree dock staff (especially Lou, Cliff, and Paul) for your patience and maintaining a calm façade, even during my gunning the engine phase (and, also, for saving me from a couple of near misses). If you were thinking “What the dock!” it didn’t show.
Photo #1 was taken on the Tom Sawyer, a St. Louis, MO, riverboat.
Photo # 2 is my recent successful docking at Knapp’s Landing in Stratford, CT.
I’ve noticed that folks from all walks of life are drawn to the water. In the harbor, I see fishermen, families with kids, and retired couples. I see paddle boarders, kayakers, and thrill-seeking jet-skiers. To date, I haven’t seen any other 5’ tall female power boaters out there . . . at least not yet. The boats range from mega- yachts and hand-crafted wooden sailboats to dinghies, and on a beautiful summer day, everyone is outdoors, smiling, relaxed, and happy.
I’m willing to bet that boaters represent many walks of life and political views, yet most boaters wave to each other going in and out of the harbor. Boaters also tend to help each other out. We’ve had total strangers help us dock. And, during a July trip to Port Jefferson, we saw this from a distance on our way home. Rumors of an explosion circulated on the radio. That evening, I read that a 33’ Sea Ray had caught fire in Port Jefferson harbor and was quickly engulfed in flames. Thankfully, the four people on board escaped by jumping overboard, and a jet skier who was in the vicinity ferried them away from the burning boat. Sadly, I’ve wondered whether people would still help each other out on land. We certainly don’t wave to each other anymore.
Remember to be kind and courteous no matter where you are or how stressed-out or discouraged you get. Once you behave like a jerk, it’s difficult to take it back, particularly if someone captured it on camera and put it on Facebook. It also wouldn’t hurt to talk to each other, think for a minute or two, engage in a civil discourse, and forge reasonable compromises. Knee-jerk reactions are dangerous, and life is not a zero-sum game with winners, losers and nothing in between. Intelligent people understand that there are always gray areas, and most problems can be solved if you think about them long enough, work together as a team, and dare to be creative—especially after the deadweight has been jettisoned.
We’re happier, healthier, and stronger united. We’re dead in the water divided.
So, what’s the deal with the boats? I’d been a passenger on a boat before, and I had always enjoyed it. I also love spending time near the ocean. Ocean air relaxes me like nothing else does. I’d been wanting to try boating for years, and this summer I finally took the plunge. We joined a boat club (essentially “Zipcars” for boats) called Carefree Boat Club. We’re members of the Southern Connecticut branch.
Being a passenger on a boat was fun, but it didn’t prepare me for the sheer thrill of operating one. I still recall the first time I left the harbor and pushed the throttle forward. The engine roared to life, the sea breeze washed over me and relaxed me instantly, and I looked back to watch my wake split the water behind us. How did I feel? Freedom, joy, energy, and a sense of empowerment. I was the captain of our ship, and I could take us anywhere.
That sense of empowerment carried over to other aspects of my life. Sometimes I’ll try to get out on the water a day or two before an important hearing or deposition. It focuses me and gives me more of an edge.
Working moms, in particular, are notorious for failing to take time for themselves- we feel guilty about it because there are so many obligations and chores. That is a big mistake, which I had made for years. Do one thing each week that lifts your spirits and empowers you. It could be a fitness class, a girl’s night out, or, in my case, pushing that throttle forward. You are worth it. But if that doesn’t convince you, I’ll give you a guilt-free reason to do it- it will make you a better mother, coworker, spouse, daughter, etc. Really, it will.