Wednesday, July 26, 2017


      For the next three years after the sinking adventure, the cruiser behaved herself, but her captain did not. He had an uncanny predilection for accidently going overboard. If we were in shark territory, this was not a great thing to do. Sharks could be caught on rod and reel or speared with a harpoon attached to plenty of line wrapped around a barrel. One day Ed had just connected with a whopper and I was dutifully recording the event with the camera when he got fouled up in the line and went flying.  Unfortunately for posterity, I failed to continue focusing on the event, and there followed a lengthy sequence of the side of the boat. 
     Ed was fond of stating, from his armchair in front of the TV, that the sharks we harpooned were just big old harmless sand sharks, but I never saw a pair of arms and legs move as fast as Ed’s did. All I could think of was one of those trick movies where a fellow dives into the water, the projector is put in reverse and whoosh--he’s back on the diving-board. My husband scrambled over the side with the same incredible speed.
         In the fall of 1952 I wrote to a stranger named Darrell McClure:
         I am writing to ask a favor.  My husband, Ed, has been subscribing to Yachting magazine for many years and is an admirer of your illustrations.  He even faithfully follows Little Annie Rooney.
When I was recently trying to think of a Christmas gift for the man who has everything nautical, it occurred to me that you might consider drawing a personalized sketch for him.  Certainly nothing would please him more. I realize the enclosed check isn’t much for a man of your reputation, but it’s all my bank account can spare.
     If you accept, the following may help you find an appropriate theme:
     What Captain Malley really needs for Christmas is a gift certificate to a psychiatrist’s office.    He is a rabid perfectionist about everything pertaining to our Matthews, the Happy Days, but when it comes to extracting a few dollars for household repairs, I might as well ask him for one of his eyes.
     Consider the problem of the bathroom linoleum, stained and faded and so cracked the rugs had lumps in them.
     “New linoleum,” sobbed my husband.  “Why I bought you new linoleum ten years ago!”
     A few days later, however, Ed breezed into the house with a box full of linoleum samples and said cheerfully, “Pick a color.”
     “Is this a game” I asked.
     ‘No,” he said, looking surprised.  “We need new linoleum.  You know better than I about things like colors.”
     Hastily, before he could change his mind, I chose a practical bathroom design.
     “That one?  On a boat?”
     There followed a brisk exchange of opinions.  Don’t misunderstand me, Mr. McClure; my husband and I have no differences that couldn’t be settled by the Supreme Court.  This time we compromised:  new linoleum was installed throughout the Happy Days; she was freshly painted, inside and out; new curtains and slipcovers were ordered for her.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the bathroom was resplendent in black marbleized linoleum.
     According to Ed, most of his extravagances (he calls them “investments”) have been in the interest of safety,  Inclined to be safety-conscious since our first boat sank under us, he is determined to be prepared for any contingency except bankruptcy.  Since we have been unable to find anyone with enough derring-do to buy what was left of the Happy Days, we are the only folks in town who own, not one, but two boats they can’t afford.  Without blinking an eyelash, Ed will dash off checks for such things as a ship-to-shore telephone, a built-in COsystem, or automatic pilot.  But mention a new lampshade or shoes for the kiddies and he clutches his heart, or his wallet.
     In spite of all this, however, there isn’t a boat in the world I’d rather have.  I’d even settle for the  same captain.

August 1953    
 From Darrell
     Yes, lady, I’ll draw up a sketch for you and Ed Boatguy and tear up your check.  Your letter is sufficient payment.  I’m sending it to the brains at Yachting to see if it can be used as material in some fashion.
      Thus began a correspondence, a collaboration and a lifelong friendship.
      Hubert Kent was a Ford Company purchasing agent, whom Ed had met on a business trip.  Mr. Kent mentioned that he would be vacationing on the Cape in August.
     “Look me up,” Ed said, “and I’ll take you out fishing.”
     Rather to his surprise, the man took him at his word.  Ed came home beaming one night and told me we were taking Mr. Kent on a shark-fishing trip.
     “Is this likely to get you a Ford contract?” I asked.
     “Shh,,” hissed Ed, turning pale and looking over his shoulder.  “Don’t ever say things like that!  If this guy thought I was taking him fishing because he’s a Ford purchasing agent, it would queer things for sure!”
     Hubert Kent thoroughly enjoyed his day aboard the Happy Days.  A whale sounded not far from the boat and had its picture taken for the folks back home in Detroit.  We spotted several sharks; a big one hooked himself long enough to convince Mr. Kent that shark fishing was the greatest sport in the world.
     “Mummy, look what I found on the beach!” Vonnie called, thrusting something black and wet in my face, when we returned home with our guest.  It looked and smelled like a dead dog.
     “How can I dry him out, do you think he’ll dry out if I put him in the sun?  Doesn’t he look real?”
      Timmy was simultaneously jabbering that his new kite was caught in a big tree.  Should he call the fire department to get it down?
     “Um-hm,” I said, meaning yes, the dead dog did look real; but Timmy went off to call the fire department.  I told Kathie, to take our guest upstairs and show him where to change while I set out the caviar and pate de fois gras.  Mr. Kent had barely left the room when Timmy piped up, “Is Daddy going to get the contract?”
     “Shh!  Timmy, will you shut up, for God’s sake!” I whispered, aghast.
     “Well, all I want to know is, did he—“
     I clapped my hand over his mouth.  “Where did he ever get an idea like that?” I asked Esther.
     “Urmph, rrurmph,” said Timmy, squirming.
     “I don’t know, Mrs. Malley,” Esther said.  “He’s been talking like that all day.  You know how he is when he gets an idea in his head.  I thought maybe he heard you and Mr. Malley talking.”
     Timmy was still wriggling.
     “Timmy, I’m going to let you go, but if you dare say one more word like that—well, I don’t know what your father will do to you.”
     “What’s Timmy done now?” asked Ed, appearing on cue.
     I told him.  Ed glanced wildly upstairs, then started for Timmy.  “I’ll strangle him, I swear I’ll strangle him!”
     “Why can’t I just ask—“ Timmy began calmly, not at all intimidated.
     “Timmy,” I pleaded, while his father collapsed in a chair, “not now.  Tomorrow.  Do you understand?  Tomorrow you can ask all the questions you want.”
     “Who the devil told him, anyway?” Ed asked.
     “Nobody told me.  I saw the license plate and I knew you went to Detroit to get some business and I read in a funny-book about a guy taking another guy on his boat because he was trying to get a contract.”
     “I give up,” Ed said weakly.  “I’m never going to work again.  I’ll just retire and let this genius support us.”
     Later that summer Ed and I dropped the hook in Provincetown Harbor and, breaking out our new outboard motor, putted ashore to have dinner.  We visited all the bars and explored all the shops, and I only regretted we couldn't eat in all the restaurants.  Toward midnight we made our way back to the beach where the dinghy was pulled up.  The sand bit my legs and angry waves slapped at the shore.  We had failed to notice a brisk wind developing.
      Removing our shoes, we dragged the dinghy into the water, hopped in and started the outboard.  We had gone a few feet when a wave drenched us—and the outboard motor.  Wading back to shore, we tipped the water out of the dinghy and set off again, this time with a pair of oars.
      "Now don't you wish we'd built that terrace instead?" I said, congratulating myself that I hadn't lost my sense of humor.  I could tell that Ed had lost his by the look he gave me.
     The shadowy outline of the Happy Days, pitching and tossing, loomed ahead.  Ed brought us close enough to the stern for me to grab the ladder.  Then the dinghy heaved and I lost my grip.  At the same time Ed lost one of the oars.  Half swamped, the dinghy was rapidly being swept from the boat when Ed grabbed the dinghy painter and plunged overboard. 
    It was then that I was struck by an insight.  I had married Ed, despite qualms, when I was an eighteen-year-old, slightly pregnant Smith College freshman, wishing I didn’t have to.  Now, as he fought through the waves to the Matthews with me in tow, I realized once again, with awe, that I had unwittingly married the right man.
     "Go below and change into some dry clothes," Ed ordered in his Captain Bligh voice when we were safely on board. I meekly went below.  "Come up here and hold the flashlight while  I bail out the dinghy," he called a minute later.
     I started to say, "Wait till I get some clothes on," then thought better of it.  This was no time for niceties.  Ed bailed out the dinghy while his mate stood by with the flashlight, wearing only a look of admiration.
      The next day we were almost back to Cohasset when our engine conked out off Scituate.  Ed worked over it until the sun went down and it grew cold.  He considered it a personal affront when anything went wrong with his boat, and regarded rescue by the Coast Guard as a fate worse than drowning—but this was a crisis.   Reluctantly, Ed sent up flares. 
     While the Coast Guard was towing us in, Ed gave me my orders.  "The minute we get to the dock, you run into town and find a taxi.  I'll try to brush these fellows off as quickly as possible.  They'll want to make a big thing of it and have pictures in the paper‑‑"
     "Oh boy, pictures!" I said, whipping out my mirror and comb.
     "—but there won't be any publicity if I can help it," Ed  concluded firmly.
      When we reached the dock I scrambled up the ladder, bundled to the ears in Ed's big wind-breaker, and went in search of a taxi.  The Coast Guard, noting my disguise and Ed's evasiveness when they questioned him, put two and two together.
     "Oh, we understand perfectly, sir," one said with a leer.   "Yes, sir, we'll see that there's no publicity."  They clapped him on the back, winked and would no doubt have pinned a medal on his chest if they’d had one handy.   For the next two weeks Ed swaggered.
     I'm signing this account "The Other Woman."

     Then there was the time we were trying to tie up to the pier in Provincetown. I was at the topside controls and Ed was forward with a line that he intended to toss over one of the piles rising above our heads.
     “You’re going too fast, put her in neutral!”
     Hastily I obeyed, but our momentum was carrying us past the piling as Ed wrapped his line around it. "Reverse, reverse!" he shouted.
     I shoved the handle in reverse. The throttle was still pushed up, so we shot backward. The result was curious. Ed had neglected to secure the other end of his line to a cleat. As the boat leaped from under him, he made a wild grab for the line, missed it, and ended up hanging from the Provincetown pier.
    I eventually retrieved him, getting paid for my rescue with a dour, “What’s so funny?”    
    When we acquired our Matthews in the fall of 1953, a group of friends assembled to help christen her. The Happy Days Again was absolutely blooper proof, Ed assured me.
     Then someone got locked in the head and someone fell overboard while attempting to give upside-down advice through the porthole. Since I think I’ve picked on a certain skipper more often than is courteous, I’m not mentioning any names.
     My father was a “waste not, want not” man who successfully imprinted his views on his children. I grew up knowing the value of a dime as well as a dollar; my bankbook was my favorite reading. But Dad had no way of foreseeing I would marry a man who reckons a bank is something you find at the edge of a river.
     Take our Matthews. When Ed first bought her, she was probably the most completely equipped Sport Fisherman on the Eastern Seaboard. Since then, Ed has added so much paraphernalia I 
wonder what keeps her afloat.
                                                       (Darrell McClure)
     Semper paratus, the Happy Days Again now has a ship-to-shore telephone, gasoline sniffer, recording fathometer, auxiliary gasoline generator, extra 134-gallon fuel tank, automatic pilot, electric winch, automatic bilge pump, and two new 185-horsepower Gray engines.
      Also in the “Be Prepared” category is our collection of charts. Captain Ed is chart-happy. Besides owning a complete set for our local waters around Massachusetts Bay and the Cape, he can often be found poring over charts of Florida and the Bahamas. Who knows, we might take a cruise down the Inland Waterway someday. We might want to explore Florida’s swamps and canals, or cross from one coast to another via Lake Okeechobee. We’d be pretty foolhardy to try that without charts.
     An elaborate radio direction finder was installed at what I divined was considerable expense. (No one ever gives me a financial report; I just divine these things.) Then along came Loran, and what self-respecting Sport Fisherman owner could be satisfied with a mere radio direction finder when a more expensive substitute was available? Ed was only slightly taken aback when he found that the Loran requires a 32-volt system. Our 12-volt system had never been adequate anyway, he decided while he was at it, he might as well add a 110-volt inverter.
     “From now on,” he promised, “you’ll even be able to run a small vacuum cleaner.”
     “O joy,” I said.
      Besides wanting to stay afloat, Ed likes to catch fish. When I used to go fishing with my father, the procedure was simple. You put some weights on a line and a clam on the hook and you let the line down until you felt a thud. Next you pulled it up a couple of feet and jiggled. Then you hauled in a nice fat cod. 
     My husband’s fishing is different. First of all, he insists that anything under ten pounds is not a fish; it’s bait. Hand-lines he considers quaint souvenirs of a bygone age. To catch a “real” fish it is necessary to invest in: a built-in fish box, including a circulating live-fish well; harpoons and barrels; a bow rail to pen in over-exuberant harpoon throwers. (Ed had a way of following the harpoon.) Nothing would do, of course, but the best: an A-frame designed by Eldredge-McGinnis, constructed of hollow spars, complete with a steadying sail.    
    The truth is, when I want fish for breakfast, I give the children one of Dad's old hand lines, a bag of clams, and send them out in their little rowboat. One thing worries me. Lately they've been claiming they need a bigger boat.     

No comments:

Post a Comment