by John Howard Farmer
Here’s a story written decades ago…
I rather claimed victory over my water-borne community since being a wee lad who plod the shores of the Corrotoman River. To a lessor degree have I rambled about the Rappahannock. The Chesapeake Bay was too far offshore for my dad. Early on, my boat even had limits of how far from the dock I could venture.
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 or the Tom Downing bridges, and swinging off Route 3 onto Route 354. 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. Lately that “homeness” rallies at the Norris Bridge, then strengthens at the left turn traffic light in downtown White Stone.
Our little boy moved here years ago; the pastor of Coan Church. Did I tell you how proud I am of him, of them? Well that’s another story, eh?
Anyway, one Sunday long past and after church Lee and I hooked onto Miss Hazel’s boat and tugged it to foreign waters. Hazel was inspecting a wounded knee cadet at Fork Union Military Academy.
Lee first lived in a charming place, with a wide view of the Glebe, just off the Potomac and Coan rivers. His neighbors were Royall (Bill and Myrtle). I must admit I felt sort of traitorous, almost guilty, to confess liking that area. We launched HRHQH—named for my personal banker: Her Royal Highness Queen Hazel—from the concrete ramp at the little Farmer’s abode and tested the waters nibbling the Glebe, while my daughter-in-law rallied a bit to rustle up a picnic basket for hungry navigators. Back to the dock we went to fetch the pretty girl and the basket of goodies. Then, we were offshore for sure.
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 mighty Potomac. I felt as if I were Columbus reincarnated. What a rush to push out into new waters, albeit it foreign. We trolled past Lewisetta and pushed the bow port-side and headed toward Washington.
For our first time outside personal waters, we mutually decided that Kinsale was good enough for dockage, tankage and since the picnic basket held 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 the late Mr. Crowther and how and why he had moved his Ford business from Kinsale to Kilmarnock following the roads; as water traffic waned decades prior. We tied alongside the marina, trudged up the lawn and claimed a table with a water view. As new discoverers, we partook of prayers and food. Outside, 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. The then teen Laura Farmer’s world was so wrapped ‘round her mom and dad—she had no fear or 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. Dull fall colors began 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 changes. We continued down river. I listened some to the conversation below, while sailing with a bone in my teeth. Ah! It doesn’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 welcomed 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.