I have been privileged to grow up all my life camping on the Shoalhaven River, with my Daddy’s green speed boat, “Shadrack”. Camping, water-skiing, tubing, knee boarding with the family and close friends, has been a formative part of my life and one I hope to never lose.
“Shadrack” is now a vintage boat. My Daddy built it with some friends when he was in his twenties. It was his pride and joy and he loved to drive the boat and teach people to ski. There are many people who tell the story of being taught by Dad to ski, which involved much yelling and yet also a lot of patience.
Growing up in the boat, when I was little I would sleep under the front while Dad drove. The hum of the motor would put me to sleep. As I grew I would be in the boat whenever I could; either in it or behind it. My favourite place in the boat was in the front right bedside my Dad. He would smile and wink as he drove along, sometimes all day towing and teaching people to ski. He taught me at a young age how to observe and how to be his sidekick in the boat while he drove, and I liked that position. I took it very seriously. Being an observer means you have to watch the skiers and let the driver know when they have fallen off. It means you get to watch all the fun that is happening with the skiers and also look at what is happening on the river.
Dad only let a few others drive. He taught my brother and husband to drive, that was mainly so someone could drive while he skied. I might be biased but he was a fantastic skier and skied right up to the age of 70. I loved watching him.
When he unexpectedly passed away 14 months ago in an accident, the Shoalhaven and “Shadrack” suddenly became a place of solace for many of us to feel close to him. I had never considered learning to drive, as I’d always felt that he would always be there to drive. Being a vintage boat, it has its quirks and ways of being treated. There were certain things only Dad knew how to fix and that’s the way we all probably wanted it to always be.
When dad died, I made the decision that I would get my driver’s licence and this Christmas I would drive the boat. While I knew it would be an emotional experience on many levels, I certainly felt very close to him driving this year. And my greatest regret is that he didn’t teach me, but I was thankful that this was something I could do with my brother and husband, who taught me all that he’d taught them. It is one thing to drive and then it is another thing to tow a skier well. Dad did it well, and this is not something you learn about when you get your license.
What I didn’t expect to learn is how much the driver can’t do. The driver cannot watch the skiers. The driver cannot really watch much at all. The driver can’t have an idle chat to someone in the back of the boat while we are going along. The driver is always looking forward and watching the river, the other boats and making sure everyone is safe. The driver is in control of a fast boat and at any point if they are not watching everyone can be badly hurt.
I didn’t expect to find that driving was a completely new experience for me. For someone who had been in that boat all her life, it was like seeing the boat through my father’s eyes for the first time. I had always simply enjoyed the fun of being in the boat and never understood the seriousness of captaining the boat. I had gone for the “ride” all my life without truly understanding the requirements of taking charge, the responsibility of it all, not to mention if anything were to go wrong, what I was going to do! I had no clue.
I didn’t expect to learn that while you are driving you are completely reliant on the observer to tell you what is happening, because you have other responsibilities. I didn’t expect to learn that when everyone is laughing at what’s happening with the skiers or knee boarders, the driver largely missed out on that, because he/her eyes need to be facing forward.
I imagine after driving a boat for more than 40 years, Dad was able to do much more than I could do on my first drives, but it was a perspective I had never experienced before. It gave me a greater sense of respect for my father and the sacrifice and part he played all our lives in order for us to have fun. I learned that because of the deep trust and comfort I always had when Dad was driving, there was so much I never had to think about, while ever he was in the driver’s seat. Now, I was in the driver’s seat and I felt the weight of it.
There is something beautiful about having someone in the driver’s seat who you can trust, someone who gives their everything to lead/drive in such a way that it provides the environment for others to have fun and be free to live life to the full. I have been privileged to have people in my life that have provided that for me all of my life. I have had that in my earthly father and my heavenly father.
Lord, help me to lead/drive in such a way that allows others to feel free and able to live life to the full and thank you for the examples in my life who did it so well that I never really appreciated how much freedom and life I have been given because of their sacrifice and diligence in driving so well.