Sailor Boy

As a boy sailor I was given a long lead to chase my dreams. Here I pose with with 18-foot Icarus during a teenage sailing adventure from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Newport, RI

As a boy sailor I was given a long lead to chase my dreams. Here I pose with 18-foot Icarus during a teenage sailing adventure from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Newport, RI

Sailing memories flood my mind as I lay restless in bed today, still unable to walk 10 days after a knee replacement surgery.


I could obsess about the excruciating pain and second-guess my decision to have a prosthesis inserted into one of the most critical parts of my body–but it is better for me to meditate on the positive.


I am remembering myself as a sun bleached 14-year-old South Florida boy. I was restless then, too. With hormones raging and frustrated in school, I was trying to figure out what I wanted from life. All I knew was that I wanted to go sailing.


“I’m running away from home,” I told my parents one day. “I love you, but I gotta go.”


Why? Who knows? No child could have asked for better parents, or for better siblings. My life was perfect. I just needed the time to discover that on my own.


I had a 12-foot wooden sloop that I had named Cutty Shark. I wasn’t thinking about the nautical history of the great clipper ship Cutty Sark when I named my boat. I was thinking about the Scotch whiskey by the same name. I painted the boat bright yellow to match the label on the whiskey bottle. My parents did not think it was nearly as funny as I did.


My Dad said, “Well, if you are running away in that boat let me give you a ride to the boat ramp.” And my Mom said, “I’ll pack up some food for you.” It was not exactly the response to my rebellion that I had in mind.


“I’m going to Key West,” I told them. The year was 1969. Key West was 150 miles away. “Give us a call when you get there,” Dad said, waving goodbye. And that was that. I ran away to sea at age 14 in a tiny yellow boat named after a bottle of whiskey.


The story has a happy ending. A couple of weeks later, Mom and Dad drove down to Key West in our family station wagon towing my boat trailer. There were smiles all around. They even treated me to a seafood dinner at the A&B Lobster House. I was hungry.


What amazing parents I have. To allow their 14-year-old kid to leave home, in the middle of the school year, and just go sailing alone over the horizon. It was remarkable. It was probably the single best example of parenting I have ever known. It cured my restlessness (for a while). I was a better boy because of it.


Right now these memories are better than morphine for the knee pain. I close my eyes and smile as I think of a fresh breeze filling my sails. Those were days when I had the freedom to be anybody I wanted to be.


Those days will come again.

2 thoughts on “Sailor Boy

  1. If this happened today instead of 45 years ago, they’d have us for child neglect!!! But I don’t believe it was in the middle of the school year…..must have been spring break!!! Journalistic license or something huh???? I wish there was a way to write about the confidence we always had, and still do, in your ability and your character.

    Very cute story Jeff! Another winner! Love you, and as always, even 45 years ago, know you’re something special!!!! Mom

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Jeff, I had a total knee replc. five years ago ( I had fallen on my knee at Swiming Hall of Fame yrs. ago) and had Dr. Meli
    here of Ft. L. do a total replacement. i have had great success…if you need another opinion or exam why you are having a problem:: phone Dr. Meli..number is 954 771 8177. He is located adjacent to Holy Cross Hospital. He has had many success stories. I e- mailed Alvie of info about Dr. Meli. Hope your knee gets better….Joyce Lihan P. S I had no pain after several weeks of therapy and still don’t…..

    Place to stay if you are coming to Ft. L.


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