[backdated with dasBlog]
We didn't have a church ceremony for my father. Instead we gathered at the sailing club. A family friend acted as MC and each of us (the five children and my dad's wife) spoke, read a poem, or played some music. A table nearby was piled with newspaper clippings about his inventions, his trip around the world, and so on, as well as the sextant he used on his trips, his pipes, and so on.
Afterwards we got onto the boat, which is 26 feet long. A gale was forecast for that night, but it was afternoon and we were only 15 minutes from home. We had something to do and we went out and did it. His hat was still floating on the waves when a pulley that holds the tender (small dinghy) up out of the water broke. There followed several exciting minutes while the only two qualified sailors (my brother, who sailed the Atlantic with him 20 years ago, and my sister, who is eight months pregnant) wrestled it out of the remaining pulley, got it tied behind us, and got all the water out of it. When this was all settled we realized we had gone quite a long way and decided to take down the small sail we'd been using and motor back home.
The motor started fine and the prop turned, but it didn't make the boat move. This is the point where Dad would have opened things up and fixed them, had done so even just a few days after abdominal surgery, but none of us could. We tried a few things and then called the Coast Guard.
The ocean is big and even when you're on a cell phone telling them what island you think you are going past, it can take a long time to find you. It was getting darker and windier by the minute. We got a sail up (my brother wore the safety harness he'd worn in the North Atlantic) and actually got into a cove and at anchor by the time they found us. They said we'd lose the boat if we left her there that night, and decided to tow us to a marina. That all went without incident. Afterwards, standing around in our funeral clothes outside someone else's wedding reception, we acknowledged that maybe we hadn't been super smart in what we'd done, but that we'd been fine till the engine broke. That's when the Coast Guard guy said "Boats can be tricky that way." I thought he was going to patronize us, point out they take you onto the ocean or some such, but he went on "they don't like losing their owners." Told us a few tales of boats that sank the day they were sold and the like.
Later, my brother realized the pulley that broke just as we finished our private remembrance was the last thing my father had fixed on that boat. And I realized that when "bloody hell" (my Dad's favourite oath) started, and competence and capability (things my father valued highly, along with brute force) kicked in, the crying stopped. The five of us kids pulled together and rescued ourselves, now that we don't have Dad to rescue us any more. We're going to be OK.
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