My mobility around the river had taken a leap forward on Labor Day in 1962 when for my birthday, I received the Gibson Girl as a gift from Mom and Dad. The sixteen-foot craft had originally been intended for Mom, but she found maneuvering the boat to a dock and then grabbing the dock quickly was too difficult for her to manage. I had been given permission to use the boat most of the time prior to it becoming mine. Nonetheless I regarded the difference between taking my boat and borrowing Mom and Dad’s boat as a subtle but important difference.
I remember the day I received Gibson Girl. It was my sixteenth birthday. I looked at the boat as I approached the dock. The lapstrake hull, with each board overlapping the board below it, was painted white. The windshield framing and decks were varnished. A cleat for the bow line, a chromed horn and running lights were necessary accessories for operating or securing the vessel, and they were located on the front deck.
I was quite excited as stood next to the boat and surveyed the interior. The flooring consisted of plywood painted gray. The rest of the interior was a light shade of varnish with the ribs exposed. I gazed at the dashboard, which brought back memories of the secret kiss I shared with Martha and how we had replaced the split dash a week or two before. A top was attached to chrome tubing that gave shape to the canvas and stabilized the assembly. The rolled-up canvas and tubing fit conveniently in front of the steering wheel and dashboard next to the windshield. When needed, it was a simple task to unfurl the canvas and snap it to the fasteners on the windshield. The entire region surrounding the 1000 Islands is dotted with lakes and tributaries because it rains a lot. Anyone counting on a boat for transportation needs a top.
I was becoming more independent. I began exploring the river, and made new friends. I liked the idea of a wide...