Things can be what you make them.
You can meet and befriend another person any time. It is called making a new friend.
We all have “old friends” we have known and shared with for a long time. This is different and special.
I will tell you about a person who for me was both.
I first met Bob when I trespassed on his dock at the City Marina to have a closer look at his sailboat which I had been admiring for weeks. Thinking nobody was aboard, I was surprised when I sensed activity in the cabin. Before I could remove myself, a figure emerged. It was a man, rail thin, with a shock of white hair and a toothy grin who said, “sorry for the mess. We’re getting ready for the North Channel, but you’re welcome to have a look. Come aboard.”
I boarded for a quick tour of the cabin. There was a woman, no doubt his wife, packing food in the galley lockers. Then I heard Bob say, “would you like to take a quick spin around the harbor and see how easy it is to sail this boat?”
Then the first words I said in this encounter were, “I really can’t because I am meeting my wife for….”
“Well, let’s find her then and we can all go,” he said.
Reentering the cockpit, I spied my wife near the dockmaster’s office and motioned for her to join us. She did and we went out for a brief sail. Under way, I told Bob that I liked the boat very much and that we were “between boats.” Then he said, “maybe you should get one of these. The boat’s called a Nonsuch. It practically sails itself and you two would love it”.
Turning over the wheel to me, Bob jumped up from the cockpit, told me to keep going straight, and said he was going to look for something.
He returned with a triumphant look and announced that in the Nonsuch newsletter he had in his hand there was a boat for sale in Toronto and as far as he could tell the boat was still available.
Fast forward a week. Barbara and I flew to Toronto and bought the very boat listed in the advertisement. This Nonsuch was in good condition and sailed well in the demo on Lake Ontario. The hull had cosmetic issues, not the least of which was a bilious robin’s egg blue color, but a paint job would fix that.
This chance encounter turned into a fast friendship as we swapped stories about how we both grew up in Detroit and Grosse Pointe and more. We frequently dined together as families, cruised in our boats in the North Channel, and when Bob bought a Nordic Tug, I bought one. I found a pal who was in a way a Big Brother. We established a friendship that over a short time created its own equivalent of a long-standing friendship as we reminisced about growing up, riding on the Boblo boat and our many common interests. We even talked on the phone a couple of times a month during the winter just to catch up, something I had never done before.
Bob died in 2002, 12 years after our chance meeting on the dock. He was 78. I am now eight years older than Bob was when he died. Though we were old when we met and I am older yet, we remain friends for life.
Addendum: Tonight, after parking my car at the marina, I purposefully walked on the dock to have a closer look at a newly arrived Nonsuch sailboat. I told the skipper I had owned a Nonsuch and how that came about. Then I realized I was looking at Bob Wood’s Nonsuch and went home to write this story – things happen for a reason…
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