I never considered staying back like my brother did. I could not conceive how I would stay in school, how I would get back and forth to my grandparents; if they would even have had me. I could not imagine being happy at school anymore, though. Rick and Al were gone, Sharon dropped out to get married to her high school sweetheart, and after Susie’s admission of outright using me I became a bit gun-shy of friendly people. I should have known… there was no logical reason why Susie would try and take up with me – we were so different. I had exactly two dates in two years, and I never got invited to a party. Academics were not a challenge… I just thought that while I didn’t know what I was getting into boarding the ship, I knew that MSU was not doing it for me anymore, on any level. Besides, now that my dad was pursuing a dream he seemed to be in a much, much better mood. He was chatty and sang to himself – it was wonderful. That was such a huge relief.
The boat was moored at Miller Marina in St. Clair Shores. While I was living in LaSalle my dad took to a major ship renovation. He had a metal bulwark built over the aft hold, so that it was a two-story space inside for our new home. There was also some engine work that was needed: my cousin Tom told me that on the trip from Montreal to Detroit, someone would have to go down to the engine room and sprinkle gritty cleanser on a brake belt so that it would stop slipping. The ship was re-christened the Brigadoon, and we painted the hull bright red. The pilot house and the trim were painted black and white. I remember hanging over the side and scrubbing off rust with a very stiff metal brush.
The ship had a three-cycle Brons engine that would totally permeate a body with its slow, rhythmic “CHUG-chug-chug-CHUG-chug-chug” day and night. The engine room door was accessed on the port side, aft of the pilot house door. It was very stereotypical, rounded edges and a very large handle square in the middle, maybe a foot long, that swung up a quarter turn to unlock the lever. When you swung open the door you could see that someone had painted a crying Donald Duck, hat in hand, on the inside of the door. My sister became the mechanic, scampering down the gangway ladder when required. I became the navigator, learning both Loran C and celestial navigation. We had on board three young men, Warren, the son of the man from whom we procured all our electronics, Jimmy, a young man that worked with my mother at the furniture store, and Charlie Brown, the welder that would be finishing up some work and getting off in Welland. Charlie tried to teach me how to weld – now that’s a craft with which I could never make a living.
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