The Child Inside

by · April 11, 2018


My boat already beached, I sat in the warm sand and watched my friends’ boats sail toward me, an easy breeze rippling the water. As they landed, skippers and crews hopped overboard and walked ashore, anchors and rodes in hand, dragging the vessels a little farther up the beach and setting temporary hooks.

We stood around admiring each other’s boats for a few minutes, pointing out various modifications made or planned, then shared a community chocolate bar and recounted—with appropriate poetic license—highlights from the day’s sailing so far. Next came debate and strategizing about the best route back on the afternoon’s rising tide and contrary current. Someone suggested they might row while under sail, another planned to walk their boat upstream by the painter and push off around the point. Someone else was lobbying to stay put and make camp.

At 45 years old I was the youngest in our group, and not by a little bit. Among those gathered were two former military pilots, a construction company owner, a doctor, and a retired professional designer—all with vast experience, nautical and otherwise—all serious and capable people. But now here they were, pants rolled up like Huck Finn, one of them showing off his new camp stove, another fiddling with his phone’s navigation app, and everyone laughing at each other’s corny jokes. It occurred to me then that what we were, fundamentally, was a group of twelve-year-old boys. We had our wooden rafts and bed-sheet sails, our binoculars, our sleeping bags, and a longing for adventure. All that was missing were a few comic books and maybe a slingshot or two.

Something magical happens when we climb aboard a little boat and push off to explore. If we relax and allow ourselves, we return to the age where such adventures first appealed. A tiny boat really is a time machine, revealing the boys and girls we’ve never fully stopped being. Aristotle said “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” I say give me a 70-year-old and a small boat and I will show you the boy. —Joshua Colvin

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Discussion14 Comments

  1. Howard Rice says:

    Nicely penned Josh. Funny thing, you are about to receive my current “Out There” column titled “A Fountain of Youth”

  2. A delightful little piece,Josh, and so true. I also think that, in the comforting embrace of a tiny cabin or tent, we go back even further, to those secure, comforting months in the womb.

  3. Paul Mullings says:

    A lovely piece Josh, while reading,the Kate Bush song “The Man With the Child in His Eyes”suddenly burst into my head and for the life of me I can’t get rid of it!!

  4. Bob Triggs says:

    Wonderful words here, my friend!

  5. Chris Noot says:

    Well said, Josh. I had my first raft experience at nine years old, on an early spring morning. Wandering, alone, exploring the neighborhood, I came upon a little pond, and a raft, and a pole. I hope I never forget the dark blue water, the bright green grass, and the light blue dome of the sky. I can still see the water, all around the little raft, lapping up onto it, soaking my shoes. I loved it then, and I still love it today, more than fifty years later.

  6. Steve says:

    Nicely written Josh. That sonsums up how I feel Rach time I hit the shoreline on Arwen or camp on board her. Eloquently put. Thank you

  7. Ralph Allen says:

    lovely…and couldn’t agree more with your observations!

  8. admin says:

    Thanks, gents!

  9. Walter Yale says:

    A canoe trip up the Fulton Chain of Lakes in New York States Adirondacks was such a trip for me. Staying on remote islands at night with a smoking campfire. Enjoyed your memories.

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