This is Part 1 in a two-part series.
I can not remember my parents ever being on a boat or ship, with the possible exception of the launch at Geauga Lake. In that respect, I do not share boating experiences with them. When I began listing all the boats and ships I have been on, I was surprised at how many there were.
It all began when I was on vacation in my cousin's cottage at Brady Lake. My buddy and I rented rowboats at the weekday rate of something like two boats for two days for $2. The boats were made of wood with flat bottoms -- more like rafts with sideboards. I sometimes would row with alternating oars: right, left, right, left etc. I remember rowing a boat on Lake Erie off Euclid Beach Park. The boat had a rounded bottom and it was easy going away from shore, but kind of scary heading back, because of the wind and waves.
Garfield Park once had a very small lake. Rented rowboats would require only a few pulls on the oars and you would be on the other side. Some time around maybe 1942, I read library books about how to paddle a canoe. I was most interested in how to use the paddle to steer. My friend Larry and I spent a whole day canoeing on Portage Lakes with two WAVES we met at Euclid Beach Park. I remember when the taller one took a turn at paddling I could feel how she was really putting lots of energy into her paddling.
My most romantic boat ride ever was in a put-put boat on Geauga Lake. It was just big enough for two people to squeeze in together. At night, the boats would have a white light mounted on a pole and seeing lots of those little white lights dancing on the water in the moonlight was great. Funny, but I don't remember who was in the boat with me.
In my days, Cedar Point offered rental canoes for paddling around in a series of lagoons. I remember being there on a triple date with two male friends and three girls. Later on, those lagoons were used for a ride on a sightseeing boat to view staged scenes of Indian villages, pirates, log cabins and other features.
On Lake Saint Mary in western Ohio, I took my wife and daughter on a ride around the lake in an aluminum boat with an outboard motor. In Holland, Mich., our lakeside rented cabin included use of a rowboat. While out on the lake, I was issued a ticket for not having the required number of life vests on board. When I showed the ticket to the lady at the rental office, she seemed annoyed at the man who had issued it. She took the ticket away from me and I never heard any more about it.
I wonder how many people can say they were actually inside a submarine? The USS Cod, on our Cleveland lakefront, has been there a long time and I've toured it at least twice, maybe more. Of all the people who have done that, I wonder how many recognized a small metalworking lathe tucked away in a corner? I wonder if it was ever used to make or repair anything?
The other time I was in a submarine was off the coast of Grand Cayman Island.
The sightseeing sub was named Nautilus and after boarding a tender to take us out from the dock to the sub, we were taken down to 100 feet below the surface. That was a thrill of a lifetime! A Chicago museum used to have a captured German sub on display, but it had been altered and was inside the museum, not floating like the Cod.
Ferries are a whole class of boats all by themselves. I've been on the Staten Island Ferry, the Bedloe Island ferry to the Statue of Liberty, the Kelly's Island ferry, the ferry across Sandusky Bay to Cedar Point, and a ferry that took us across Puget Sound to see the home of writer Betty MacDonald on Vashon Island. I recall riding a ferry to tour the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina.
Three outstanding ferries were the Blue Nose across the Bay of Fundy from Nova Scotia to Maine, the Black Whale from Long Beach Island to Atlantic City, and the "Tooth Fairy" from the riverboat The Twilight to Chestnut Mountain Lodge in Galena, Ill.
After an 8 hour crossing, with our cars, the Blue Nose docked at low tide. A woman was told to get a good start and not stop her car on the steep ramp up to the dock. She zoomed off the boat like a rocket and was awarded a round of applause by spectators. The Black Whale zigzagged through an inland waterway like a speedboat.
On a Mississippi River cruise, we were told that because of the low water level near the dock in Galena, we would be taken ashore by the ''Tooth Fairy." That turned out to be a large raft with benches, powered by two outboard motors, and with the name "2th Ferry" painted on its side. Very clever!
A tender is another kind of boat that can be a different experience and in some cases a bit of fun, too. It's a boat that takes passengers from ship to shore when the ship can not tie up at a dock because the water there isn't deep enough. When we arrived at Ibiza off the coast of Spain, one of the ship's lifeboats was used as a tender. That was a bit like a real lifeboat drill. A tender also took us ashore to Coco Cay in the Caribbean.
It was great having a few hours of sitting on the sandy beach of a private island, in the shade of a grove of palm trees, enjoying great food, all included in the cost of the cruise. The view of our ship anchored in the bay under a blue sky was like a dream come true.
Next time I'll share experiences with other kinds of ships.
Editor's note: Straka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.