AT THE HELM
VOLUME XVIII, No. 5, OC TOBER/NOVEMBER 2012
THE FLOAT PLAN
A FEW MINUTES INTO MY BUSINESS MEETING, my cellphone vibrated. I
peeked down to see who it was. “I’m so sorry,” I said to the people in the room.
CHAIRMAN, PUBLISHER, FOUNDER
Margaret Bonds Podlich
“Yes!” she said with excitement. “We’re at the club. We had a smooth ride this morn-
ing. We saw two other boats, and went right by this gorgeous great blue heron! Mom, she
I smiled with relief, reminded her to keep hydrated, to reapply sunscreen, and my
kids’ float plan for the morning was closed. Sophie, 15, and her younger brother Ben
were attending sailing lessons a few miles downriver from our house, and my husband
Steve and I were trying something at the edge of our comfort zone – letting our kids
commute each day to camp via our 13-foot Boston Whaler. We’d purchased the used,
underpowered boat for just that purpose, greatly simplifying our family’s summer trans-
portation needs in our wonderfully water-oriented town. With numerous pilgrimages to
the engine mechanic and local West Marine store, by June 1 we had a reliable, polished,
and freshly painted Whaler, which the kids christened with Gatorade.
Every day Sophie and Ben had to file and complete their float plan by calling mom or
dad when they left the neighborhood dock, and once again after safely making it to their
destination. In addition to wearing and zipping up their life jackets, and having a fully
charged VHF and cellphone, they were responsible for having at least one full tank of gas
(out of two), and for being extra responsible and courteous on the water. It didn’t hurt
that we have many friends who were our eyes on the river, each of whom had been not-so-quietly deputized by me to provide input on the kids’ behavior.
That day’s call from Sophie had come in at 9:00 a.m. “They were supposed to call by
8: 50,” I said to the folks at my meeting, “I was starting to worry.” I wasn’t kidding. This
commute was a stretch in trust and responsibility, for both parents and kids, and it has
turned out to be my best boating accomplishment of the summer.
While some parents encourage their children to pursue and
excel in baseball, soccer, or tennis,
Steve and I have been deliberate
in spreading an array of different
kinds of boating in front of our
kids. Who knows if they’ll opt for
any particular part of the sport
over another, or if they’ll end up
as adults who are fully comfortable
on the water, capable in a variety
of craft and conditions, eager for the next boating opportunity? What we do know is that
they’re both happier when they take to water, just like their parents. Which fork in the
road they take will be their decision. We’re just happy that, for this summer anyway, their
“road” is actually a river!
Sophie and Ben, responsible for their summer commute.
CONSULTING EDITORIAL DIREC TOR
EXECUTIVE EDITOR Michael Vatalaro
MANAGING EDITOR Ann Dermody
Ryck Lydecker, Chris Landers
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Elaine Dickinson, Charles Fort, Tom Neale
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Margaret Bonds Podlich
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