This Is The
The waterway frames a girl’s life and still flows deeply through her soul, in
grew up on the Intracoastal. Not in the waterskiing-every-Saturday, fishing-
trips-over-three-day-weekends, cookouts-on-the-island sort of way — although
there was that, too. For me, the Intracoastal was the bed on which I slept; it
was the sound I woke up to; the schoolhouse where life lessons were taught. The
Intracoastal Waterway was my front yard and my back; it’s the water that held my family
together, the chop that tore us apart. It is the home that mends us back today.
1998 We trade our three-bed, two-bath house in the Daytona
Beach suburbs for a 38-foot houseboat on the Intracoastal. People
call my parents crazy.
“Three small kids on a boat?” they say. “That’s a bad idea.”
My mom and dad disagree. They say if any family can do it, if
any family can downsize into one-and-a-half staterooms, two decks
and a single head, our family can. That’s what we say.
I am 11, Trevor is 5, and the baby just turned 3. She can’t
swim. My parents call us their river rats. “Watch the baby,” my
mom says. We do; we all watch each other. This is living on a boat;
this is how living on a boat works, how we will make it work.
Our first week living aboard, I’m home alone fishing off the
top deck, the contents of my dad’s tackle box spread across the
flybridge. Another catfish caught with cold hot dogs left over from
last night. Darn thing swallows the hook. His spiky whiskers scare
me. Dad usually does this part. I carry the flopping fish still hanging on the pole across the dock to Skipper, who works on the
charter boat in the next slip. He seems nice; I like how his black
lab jumps in and out of the water whenever he wants.
“Can you help me get this off?” I ask.
Skipper shakes his head, handing me pliers. “If you’re going
to fish, you need to learn how to get him off yourself. Can’t always
go around looking for help,” he says. “Use your shoe. Step on its
tail and jerk,” he says.