Column: Days of boating and swimming are far behind

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 24, 2003

Like most inlanders, I love boats. I don’t fish, I just like to be in a boat and out on the water. It’s a pastime I now enjoy only in memory. Never graceful, I am now brought by age to a state of what can only be described as incredible awkwardness. Not the sort of thing that lets you wend your way aboard a boat.

In my younger days, I not only passed my boating test &045; being able to identify bow and stern, knowing the difference and being able to both row and backwater, demonstrating how to pull to right angle of a motorboat and the like, knowing which side of the river to be on &045; but I was so good at it that I was able to teach it at various camps for young girls.

At the camps where I was sent, you couldn’t use a canoe until you passed your life-saving test. Even then you still had to pass a canoe test. The instructor without warning upset the canoe and you were expected to right it and climb back in. I can’t remember all the requirements at this late date. It seems to me there was something about swimming 60 feet and then getting back in the upright canoe.

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Back in the golden yesteryear, it presented no problem. In fact I rather enjoyed the drill. At present if I had to lift myself from a lake into a rowboat, I think I’d choose to just keep swimming.

I passed my life-saving test as soon as I was old enough. You were supposed to renew it every three years at that time. My father, though, who took a dim view of the people I went swimming with, insisted that I renew it every year. This I did until I graduated from the U and settled in places where at that time there was no place to take the test.

It was when I was in Italy several years ago that I realized that the difficulty I had entering and exiting from boats was sufficient to keep me out of them. I didn’t ride in a gondola &045; too expensive. Instead, I rode in one of the brisk little water taxis. I tottered every time I entered one and I tottered every time I exited one. I wasn’t afraid of falling overboard and drowning, but I had a strong disclination to drown in the water of those canals.

It was some time after I returned from Italy as I remember that I was invited to spend a long weekend on a houseboat on the Mississippi. No difficulty to getting on a houseboat.

It was an adventure, however, that once I was embarked on it, carried a certain uneasiness. As I have revealed before in this column, I come from a family that abounds in sleep disorders. Sleep disorders! You name it, we’ve got it &045; apnea, somnambulism and screaming nightmares.

I loved the houseboat; if it were not for the frigid winters we have in the Midwest, I could enjoy living on a houseboat the year around. The evil thought did come to me that it was not impossible that should I be caught up in one of my sleep impelled strolls I might well walk off the boat into the water.

I was optimistic enough to hope that once awakened by my submergence, I would at once start swimming. If you’ve ever walked in your sleep, though, you know that to be suddenly awakened is to find yourself totally disoriented. It was possible that I was as likely to swim toward the bottom of the river as to find myself swimming toward the surface.

I hoped that should such a catastrophe occur, my host wouldn’t have too sticky a time explaining my disappearance. One doesn’t like to be a thoughtless guest.

(Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.)