by Rev. John Farmer
Elsewhere in Foreign Waters
As a kid and later in my middle years I rather claimed victory over my water-borne community. Since being a wee lad, I plodded the shores of the Corrotoman River. To a lesser degree have I rambled about the Rappahannock. Originally, The Chesapeake was too far offshore for my dad. My boat even had limits of how far from the dock I could venture. Had I ventured out of dad’s sight I was too far from home…
Though there are vast other bodies of water familiar to you dear reader, my parameters were set long ago. Many times, have I mentioned coming home (that’s crossing the Robert O. Norris Jr. Memorial Bridge now), or as a teen the Tom Downing Bridge, and swinging off Route 3 onto Route 354 (River Road). Ah, home, I really can’t explain it. It is not an idea as much as a feeling. No matter the current stress level, when my windshield allows me that first glimpse of the Corrotoman a healing process begins.
My little boy and family have lived here some two plus decades now. He’s the Pastor of Coan Baptist Church, Heathsville. Did I tell you how proud I am of him, of them? Well that’s another story, eh? Anyway, on a Sunday after church 20 years spent, Lee and I hooked onto Miss Hazel’s former boat and tugged it north to foreign waters. Hazel was out west inspecting a wounded teen cadet at Fork Union Military Academy.
The Lee Farmer family lived in a charming place, with a wide view of the Glebe, just off the Potomac and Coan rivers. His neighbors were Royall (the late Bill and Myrtle). I must admit I felt sort of traitorous, almost guilty, to confess liking the area. We launched HRHQH (named for my then personal banker: Her Royal Highness Queen Hazel) from the concrete ramp at the little Farmer’s cottage and tested the Glebe, while my daughter-in-law and granddaughter rallied a bit to rustle up a picnic basket for hungry navigators. Back to the dock we went to fetch the pretty girls and the basket of goodies. Aha, we were offshore.
Lee and I began to spot landmarks, tree lines and capture buoy numbers. After some exploration of the Coan, we tested the waves of the neighboring mighty Potomac. I felt as if I were Columbus reincarnated. What a rush to push out into new waters, albeit foreign. We trolled past Lewisetta and pushed the bow port-side and headed toward Washington, D.C.
For our first time out, we mutually decided that Kinsale was good enough for dockage, tankage and since the picnic basket was munchies, we longed for real food. We dallied about looking at the boats docked at Olverson’s Marina then pulled back and went port-side again into Kinsale. I told my son, and family, about my friend the late Mr. Crowther and how and why he had moved his Ford business (founded 1917) from Kinsale landing to Kilmarnock (1936), following the roads, as water traffic waned decades ago. We tied alongside the marina, trudged up the lawn and claimed a table with a water view. The new discoverers partook of prayers and food. Outside the window, dusk pulled the covers. Lights popped on. Night whispered.
I noticed a tenderness in my daughter-in-law, who’s just a tad less adventurous than either one of the Farmer boys. Granddaughter Laura Farmer’s world was so wrapped around her mom and dad—she had no fear, no trepidation.
Soon we slipped the lines and ventured out into the Potomac once more. Passing this and that buoy we recognized the foreign water enough to feel comfortable to steer starboard, hopefully far enough offshore to dodge crab pots and to avoid fish nets and oyster stakes.
It had been a beautiful day. The air crisp. The sun bore down; but not so as to be oppressive. Fall colors had begun to drape the shore. We were enthralled with the collection of new sights and sounds, which we were memorizing about foreign waters. Then the fog set in.
I stood from behind the windshield and held tight to the wheel using hand signals to inform Lee of speed and direction changes. We continued downriver. I listened some to the conversation below, while sailing with a bone in my teeth. Ah! Couldn’t get any better.
Behind me waved the sun; amber hues touching both sea and shore. The path which we unzipped in the river, glowed. Ahead lay dark. Just like clockwork we passed inventoried buoys and slowed to make port. Welcomed by the lights of Lewisetta, we leaned to starboard and soon recognized the tree line and calling of home as we came into the Glebe. Very thankful for safe passage and a fun trip we dropped landlines onto the dock and were voraciously met by a herd of mosquitoes. A mere inconvenience, when you consider safe harbor.
The day reminded me of my faith and of life’s best chart—my Bible. My day began with church and ended with a sunset on foreign waters. Life, just like the journey of the day, is navigable when you know the tree line, shoreline and buoys. All the beacons are there. All the landmarks divine. Read the book. Fall in love with its heroes. Let it give you direction to safe harbor. It will. I promise.