Boating and the Moon Walk

Al on boat

My husband’s boat, July 2015

My husband recently bought a boat. It’s a very functional patrol boat that he plans to use with his Coast Guard Auxiliary unit on local lakes and rivers. But it is available for our personal enjoyment as well. Last week I drove our boat for the first time—I’ve rarely driven a motor boat for the last forty years.

My dad had a boat when I was in junior high and high school, and I drove it years before I learned to drive a car. The thrill of speeding across the water, sitting in the baking sun as we skim toward the horizon—those were familiar sensations last week, bringing back memories of many good times during my teenage years.

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Our family on my dad’s boat, Coeur d’Alene Lake

For several years, my father kept his boat primarily on Coeur d’Alene Lake in Idaho. We took it to our cabin in May, and it stayed there until Labor Day. But when he first got it, when I was in junior high, we used it mostly on the Columbia River near our home. The Columbia near Richland, Washington, is wide and deep, and there are several islands where boats can be beached. We waterskied on the river, then stopped on an island for a picnic lunch and sunbathing. When the required thirty minutes after lunch had passed, we resumed skiing.

I remember taking the boat out on July 20, 1969. I can recall sitting on a rocky gravel bar in the Columbia, drinking Pepsi, and listening to the radio coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was hot and sunny by the river. Its swift, cold water flowed past me endlessly. I couldn’t imagine the stark lunar surface that Neil Armstrong was about to encounter.

Apollo 11 - First step (from NASA website)

Apollo 11 – First step (from NASA website)

The historic moon walk didn’t take place until evening local time—about 9:00pm, I think. By that time, our family was back home from our boating adventure. In fact, I was out babysitting some neighbor kids. This family had two of the orneriest grade-school boys I’d ever known, plus a toddler girl. After the little girl went to bed, the boys and I watched the grainy black and white television picture as Neil Armstrong took his giant step. A short while later, we saw the film Armstrong took of Buzz Aldrin touching down.

From a new boat to an old boat to the moon. Memory flows more swiftly than the river, and forty-six years slip away in a moment.

What recent experience have you had that brought back old memories for you?

Posted in Family, History, Philosophy.


  1. As a child, I drove my uncle’s boat once. What a thrill, traveling at high speed with the water spray hitting my face. Reading this post just brought that memory to mind…thanks!

  2. Your account of that day brought back fond memories. On that particular week we were in the Ozarks with my folks, and our two kids, five and three. When they replayed the moon walk on the radio, my dad sat at the wheel. He was so excited he could hardly keep the car between the ditches. “Imagine that! I’ve lived long enough to see the beginning of airplane use and now we’re on the moon!” Dad always had a love affair with flying–I just hoped we didn’t fly off one of those hair-pin curves on that memorable day!

  3. I didn’t grow up boating but I did grow up near the water. My mom would bundle the four of us plus all of our beach stuff into her VW Beetle and drive down the road and along the shoreline to the public beach about a mile or so away. We spent many days during the summer there. After not having been for decades I’m dating someone from my hometown so we walk along the boardwalk almost every weekend. It’s a state park now and feels a little different. But, you can still walk on the sandbar out to Charles Island when it’s low tide. I have memories of us walking back to shore with the tide coming in.The water would lap our ankles, be mid calf or maybe even knee deep by the time we got back. Guess we weren’t checking the tide charts.

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