Come Rain or Come Shine

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“Dad,”my daughter Frankie asked among one of the many stacks, “should Miles Davis be filed under M or under D?”

Therein was the dilemma of a rainy-day project I recently embarked on, with some assistance from my 10-year-old. We were rearranging about 1,000 LPs — yes, actual 12-inch vinyl records — in our apartment.

I’d decided to do this for a good reason: My old filing system was fundamentally flawed. Not to me — I understood the eccentricities of placing Willie Nelson next to Norah Jones (moody singers) and John Coltrane with McCoy Tyner (filed by jazz genre, plus former bandmates) — but I needed to show others the joy in listening to music in this old-timey way. With our son, Kieran, home from shuttered college dorms, my wife working remotely as a school administrator and my fifth grader attending part-time, in-person classes, we were logging a staggering amount of screen time per day, in four separate rooms. There needed to be a technology-free way for us to come together.

So my family stepped into the analog world I’d built during the past two and a half decades in what I considered to be an easy-to-decipher, A-to-Z format.

The exercise resulted in a few breakthroughs. My son said that Kayne West had sampled several grooves on a Curtis Mayfield record, and then the kid found the very recording to prove it. And Frankie began to expand on her appreciation for Elton John’s ’70s oeuvre; she knows all the words to “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” and a few days back, I came home from a bike ride to hear Honky Château on the turntable while Frankie snacked. (The TV was on but muted — we’re getting somewhere!)

With a long winter looming and an accelerating coronavirus surge throughout the country, I expect we all will be spending more time at home as a family. My hope is that Instagram, YouTube and Netflix — and Zoom and Slack — can take a backseat for a few hours each day while we spin some records, eat fistfuls of popcorn and break out the Uno cards, in an appreciation for the family and for music. Because this too will pass, and our busy lives will go on, outside the home.

Really, what I’m after right now is family togetherness in a safe environment — exactly the qualities that created an explosion of boat sales in 2020, with a large percentage of buyers being new to the sport. A good deal of these newbies are now experiencing their first off-season, perhaps planning warm-weather sorties to destinations farther from their home waters as their confidence and knowledge grow.

“With boating as a signature quality-of-life industry, this shift has meant an unexpected level of growth that has buoyed our businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,” National Marine Manufacturers Association president Frank Hugelmeyer writes in his guest editorial (“Challenges Ahead, Challenges Behind”) on Page 48.

But as the title of his editorial suggests, while we have left many challenges in our wake, now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Many other industry experts agree. We cannot let this gift of new boaters — many skewing younger than buyers in past years — slip into the column of former boaters, which statistics show hover around 42 percent after five years. That result would be neither acceptable nor sustainable for the industry in the long run.

“We need to be reminding [new boaters] about all the great fun they had on the water this year,” Stephanie Vatalaro, senior vice president of marketing and communications at the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, says in this month’s Q&A. “We need to be educating them on how to boat, how to fish, where to go near them. We need to support them. It’s not a one and done.”

This call to action applies to everyone, from those at the dealership level who ink the contracts all the way down the line to the clerks at the bait shops and chandleries. Experienced boaters, this call is for you too: Remember that one time when someone at your marina imparted an indispensable docking tip, or some GPS coordinates where you really murdered the fish? Those kinds of simple, encouraging gestures led you to what we all want these new boaters to experience: early success and the confidence to stick with a sport that can be intimidating at first and take years to master.

Like my family finding a new way to work together in our apartment, let’s all look forward to the high boating season of 2021 and the opportunities and challenges that lie beyond the pandemic. I will gladly file our success stories anywhere that seems fit. 

This article was originally published in the January 2021 issue.


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