The fact is, I’ve spent nearly my entire life in or around water. Sounds odd, since outside of the Mississippi River, St. Louis is mostly land-locked. The fact is the World is 3/4th covered by water.
When I was a kid, I first learned how to swim at Clayton Shaw Park pool. Getting over the fear of water is an important step for any youngster.
Family vacations always meant time spent on the water. My parents took my two brothers and myself to a lake in Hayward, WI. We often spent time at the beach in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, visiting cousins in Florida.
I was in the Navy for almost four years, which meant being in or around water all the time. One year included isolation duty on tiny Johnston Island in the South Pacific, some 800 miles southwest of Honolulu. Not much to do on Johnston Island other than play tennis and swim in the modest swimming pool.
Free time meant heading to Hawaii. That meant trips to Waikiki beach and body surfing on the backside of Oahu. I was sent on temporary duty to the Marshall Islands and got to spend time on Bikini, Majuro, Enewetak and other dots in the Pacific you’ve never heard of.
Trust me, these are the most beautiful atolls in the World.
Lucky for me, I’ve been to Bermuda three times; Belize and got into the icy surf at Cape Cod; the northern coast of Maine, Cannon Beach in Oregon and Santa Monica in Los Angeles and Lajolla in San Diego. I drove by the beach in San Francisco and Santa Barbara, but didn’t get in.
Tide watching throughout Nova Scotia is fabulous, but the surf is way too tricky to negotiate, even during the summer. The same went for Bar Harbor, Maine and Mackinac Island on the northern tip of Michigan.
Seems like when I was growing up, everyone was spending time in the water. My neighbors often invited us for a day of outboard motor boating and water skiing on Alton Lake. The family would spend time down at the Lake of the Ozarks and when I went to summer camp in Lesterville, MO, we went on canoe float trips on the Jack Fork and Black Rivers and dove off the steep rocks into the icy waters of the Johnson's Shut Ins.
St. Louis was as hot then as it is today and air conditioning then was scarce. My friends fled to swimming holes like Petoskey, Charlevoix and Grand Haven in Michigan. Others found the lakes at summer camps in Wisconsin and Minnesota where cooler breezes provided a respite from St. Louis’ summer heat.
Sailing is fun, but I flubbed big time, trying to learn on a dinghy in the Chesapeake Bay while doing duty in Washington, D.C. Being around and in water has just been a big part of my life. I’m not very good at snorkeling either.
But the memories in and around water are priceless.