Sunday, March 12, 2006

Life on the Lillie Sue as told by John

As a baby, a toddler, and throughout my prepubescent years, I spent a lot of time with my mom and dad, but mostly just with my dad (as after my little brother was born and later my sister, my mom had to stay home to perform her motherly duties), going out on the Chesapeake Bay on the boats my dad had christened after my mom: the Lillie Sue and the Lillie Sue II. And it was on the Lillie Sue that I spoke my first word (which was lighthouse, of all things), and my parents used to tell a story that kind of led up to that momentous occasion.

As a small boy, when I reached the age at which most children begin to speak, I remained mute. Needless to say, my parents grew concerned. They took me to my pediatrician and explained the situation.

The doctor asked them, "Does he point?"

"Yes," my parents answered.

"Do you give him what he points at?"

"Yes, we do."

"Then he doesn't need to speak," the doctor explained, and with that my parent's worries were placated. But how it was that I came to speak lighthouse as my first word still remains a mystery.

My dad kept the Lillie Sue docked at a small marina in Smith's Creek, Maryland, which was six miles from the Chesapeake Bay. It was about an hour's ride to get there by car from our home in Arlington, Virginia, and my dad liked to leave early in the morning so that he could get an early start out on the water. I would often still be sleepy on the ride down, and while he was driving my dad would let me lay my head down on his leg to take a nap. It was warm and familiar, and I would quickly fall asleep.

Once at the marina, I would wake refreshed and ready to start the day. My dad and I would walk down towards the boat, and I can still remember the hollow sound our shoes would make as we stepped along the wooden beams of the dock. The Lillie Sue sat at a right angle in a slip about halfway down the dock, and a small, perpendicular extension that jutted alongside the boat allowed access to the side entrance.

Depending on the tide, one either had to take a step up or a step down to get on the boat, and it was when the step down was rather steep that scared me. I was always afraid that I would slip off into the water. Once on the boat, however, I never felt afraid of falling off even when traversing the narrow ledge that led along the port and starboard sides from the stern to the bow, as there were secure handholds with which to grip.

I felt very much at home on the boat, as I had practically grown up on it and its predecessor. The first Lillie Sue was a 24 ft. cabin cruiser. One of my earliest memories on that boat was when we took it up the Potomac to Washington, DC. It was a long two-hour cruise that seemed to last forever. Then there were the countless fishing trips out on the bay when we would eat Vienna sausages and Spam sandwiches. It doesn't sound very appetizing now, but it sure seemed good then. I never did care for fishing much; I much rather enjoyed watching. After a day's catch, we would head back to port where once docked I would watch my mom and dad clean the fish. I never had any desire to take part in the act myself, with the exception of scaling the fish, but I was fascinated with the process of the actual gutting. I remember my dad pointing out that one could tell a pregnant female by the eggs in her insides

The second Lillie Sue, the Lillie Sue II, was a 27 ft. cabin cruiser, and my dad got that when I was around eight or nine. I went out on both boats with my dad scores of times, but the most fateful trip was when my dad took our family and friend's family out on the Lillie Sue II. I must've been around nine or ten for I remember my younger brother Jim and little sister Rosa were on board. The other family had a couple of kids, too.

While we were out on the bay, we ran into some bad weather, and my dad told all of us kids to sit down in the stern with our backs against the wall. The wind began whipping the seas into a violent fury, and I remember the boat continuously going up into the air bow first and then slamming back down hard onto the water. I was scared but in retrospect not as scared as my dad was. In retelling the story, he told how he thought the boat's bottom was going to bust pounding as hard as it was on the water. Had it busted up the boat would've sank, of course, and though everyone was wearing life preservers, who knows what our fate might had been. As luck would have it, though, we weathered the storm out and made it back to port safely.

With the exception of that trip, and the two rare trips that I got seasick, life on the Lillie Sue and the Lillie Sue II with my mom and dad (and just my dad after my mom had Jim and Rosa and had to stay home to take care of the young children). In many a sense, the boat was my home away from home.


At 10:24 AM, Blogger Rosa said...

I was too young to remember the Lillie Sue. I do remember the Honey Pot. (Sounds kinda perverted now.)

At 12:13 PM, Blogger John Ivey said...

Honey Pot is the most ridiculous name I have never heard of for a boat, or anything for that matter. As I recall, the name was derived from a drink that Aunt Ollie used to make.

At 8:29 PM, Blogger Rosa said...

Haha, after being down here "on the water," I now know that Honey Pot is a spot where you can catch a lot of fish, here they call it a Honey Hole. Funny.


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