So we all went off to the lake last Saturday. Two Laser sailors - me and my son, the blogger formerly known as Litoralis; my two eldest grandkids, Emily (6) and Aidan (4 years and 1 day); and Tillerwoman.
Conversations since that day have elucidated that Tillerwoman thought the kids were only going to watch Litoralis and me sailing. But I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to offer the kids the opportunity to come sailing with us (for the first time ever in their young lives) and that there was a pretty damn good chance that they would actually do it.
When we arrived at the lake, Aidan saw a Laser with the mast up and made some remark about how tall it was and how that must be "much bigger than your boat Granddad." It then dawned on me that although the kids had known for ever that Granddad was a sailor and that Daddy has a Laser under the deck (which hardly ever sees the water) these kids had not grown up hanging around yacht clubs. I'm not sure they have ever actually seen a rigged Laser before.
So, while Tillerwoman took the kids for a tour of the waterfront, Litoralis and I rigged our boats.
His face says it all. He's not sure what to expect but he's darned if he's going to miss out on some fun that his big sister is going to have.
I was ready to launch first and asked Emily if she wanted to come and sail with me.
Of course she said yes. I knew she would.
I said the words that are a catchphrase in our family, "When Daddy was a little boy...."
The kids always cringe when they hear these words from me. They expect that I am going to tell the story (for only about the 429th time) of when we took their father camping in Spain when he was one year old and how he ate too many grapes and of the unfortunate and painful gastric consequences of his intemperance (which we don't need to describe in detail here.)
So now I say those words at every opportunity just to watch their little faces crumple up in pain as they remember the story about Daddy's dreadfully distressing grape indulgence outcome ... I really am a very bad Granddad!
But today I had a very different story about when Daddy was a little boy. About how he and his brother used to sit in front of the mast of my Laser and how they used to have sooooo much fun sailing with me in France.
So I lifted Emily on to the bow of my Laser and showed her where to sit and how to hold on to the mast. I rocked the boat a little just to give her a feel for how it would move while we were sailing and make sure she was comfortable. She hung on to the mast with grim determination.
But I think she was happy with the arrangement. It really is much better than being in the cockpit and getting tangled up with the sheet and with that crazy long tiller extension and getting trodden on by Granddad every time he tacks or gybes.
So we sailed off to the the middle of the lake.
I pointed out the other Lasers racing and then we sailed towards the north end of the lake. I reminded her that that was where the public beach that she had visited several times was. We came close to a couple of Sunfish sailors out having fun and watched them for a while.
Then she spotted something down the southern end of the lake that she wanted to see. Some kind of beach club by the look of it. As we sailed more she relaxed and released her death grip on the mast. She splashed her feet in the water and laughed at the effect.
We hit a bit of a lull and she told me she wanted to go faster. I took this as a good sign, but gave here a boring lecture on gusts and wind lines and all that stuff anyway. She splashed her feet in the water some more.
Then she saw that her father and brother were out sailing too and wanted to sail over and see them. So we did. Aidan looked just as happy as Emily. Then she told me she wanted to "race Daddy." I took this as a very good sign.
So we raced Litoralis and Aidan for a while and I gave her another boring lecture about how I was using the bad air off my sails to slow them down but she seemed to be having enormous fun in spite of that.
We sailed near the other half dozen Lasers doing informal races and I asked her if she wanted to join in with their races. She said yes. I took this as a very, very good sign.
I did my best to explain to her the race course and where the start/ finish line was. I lined up outside the start line and let the other boats go off first. Didn't want to spook Emily by getting involved in any of the usual start line mayhem.
I did the usual lake sailing stuff - tack on the headers, go for the puffs - and we ended up in fourth place out of eight boats at the windward mark. I was pretty pleased with that but she wanted to know how her father and brother were doing. I looked around. "They're last," I told her. She seemed pleased about that.
Downwind I didn't pull up the daggerboard because she was sitting on the daggerboard shockcord. And I didn't do my usual extreme windward heel because I didn't want her to fall off the boat. But we maintained our position and we rounded the leeward mark in fourth.
"How's Daddy doing?"
"He's still in last place."
Big smile. Her. Not me.
Up the second beat I pointed out that if we could just pass that yellow boat, we would finish third. Not too shabby considering our late start and carrying a crew and not being able to sail properly downwind. So I did the usual lake sailing stuff - tack on the headers, go for the puffs - and we did pass the yellow boat and we were third. Not at all shabby considering.
"How's Daddy doing?"
"He's still in last place."
She seemed extraordinarily happy about that.
By now we had been sailing for about an hour. She was having fun. She was relaxed. She was enjoying sailing.
But she had had enough, so we went in.
I don't know if last Saturday was the best day of my life so far, but it was pretty damn close.