Kids and Boats
Article: Doug Day
Photos: David Routh

One of the big reasons I started building boats was to spend more time with my kids outside. No idiot box, no Nintendo, and lots of fresh air are good for the soul. At least that’s what my Dad said – and I’m not even asking them to get these wonderful benefits behind a lawn mower!

It was a Saturday with decent weather, light winds predicted, and I had arranged to meet David “Shorty” Routh at a small local lake for a lunchtime sail. My wife was going out of town and leaving me with one of my kids. When I told him we were going sailing he kind of looked at his feet, gave a small sigh, and said, “Do we have too?”

“I thought you liked sailing” I replied, determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. He kind of mumbled a reply but I think I caught something about “Captain Bligh” and “slave driver” amongst the muttering. Me?!? Controlling? Demanding? Not I, that’s my Dad, not me. It’s hard to think back to when I was his age but I do know I get along a lot better with my Dad today than I did back then. Quickly referring to my parenting handbook, the 10-year-old chapter, it states clearly “Children want more freedom. Try adding a combination of freedom and responsibility…”

“What if we take two boats?”
“I can sail my own?”
“Sure thing”
“Can we go yet?”

Loaded up a Bolger nymph in the back of the truck and a PD Racer on a trailer and off we went. Shorty showed up with his daughter Darby and we were off.

My son Zachary hasn’t sailed on his own since last summer so I took a small pair of radio’s so I could keep in touch with him and try and help if he got in trouble. The Nymph is so easy to sail he had no problems getting in and taking off down the lake.

Now, keeping a 10-year-old boy occupied for a nice sail down the lake is one thing, maintaining enthusiasm in a 4-year-old girl is something completely different. Darby is as cute as a button but I was curious how long she would be happy in an 8’ boat with a big guy like Shorty.

David "Shorty" Routh

At first I thought perhaps there was a serious problem. Crew did NOT appear to appreciate the joys of sailing although the captain appeared happy with the day. I was mistaken. I must say Shorty is a man of many talents. Gentleman, scholar, and boat builder extraordinaire, he had the situation well in hand.

I had never heard of ducky on a string but it did the trick! She would toss the duck over the side and pull it along. Had a great time.

Those were the days – I wish life were so simple now! Chuck, I think we need to re-open the women on a boat contest – Darby gets my vote.

Meanwhile, Zach is getting bored. “Dad, can we go back yet?” came across the little radio. Refer again to handbook (this thing is kind of getting dog eared, wonder if Duckworks has a book about kids?)

“Competition is healthy and serves to maintain interest.” OK, I thought, lets try this.

“How about we race to the other end of the lake?” Seeing as he was quite a ways ahead of me I thought this would spur his enthusiasm.

You learn something new every day. I learned not only that my son has a competitive streak a mile wide; it is only surpassed by his sarcasm when he is on a radio 100 yards out of reach! The nymph and the pdracer are both 8’ long but there is a huge difference in light air performance. The next hour was spent listening to him heckle my barge and suggest that perhaps I should consider forfeiting to minimize further embarrassment.

Now that he has won a race, he has decided I need to build a PD Racer for him so he can compete in the local circuit! Think I’ll turn him loose on my wife – I’m always up for building another boat.

All in all it was a great day.