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Mike Robinson on father, son relationshipsThe day we put the Frankie back in the water and moor her at the community marina is a day of ritual celebration at our house.

The day symbolizes a return to some of our family’s favourite activities – cruising in the local waters of the Salish Sea, fishing for wild salmon, and swimming in our secret best places that combine warm water, magnificent beauty and the sense that time stands still when you’re there.

Getting to there is a detailed and rigorous process. It always involves my son and we have well-defined roles. On the water, he’s the captain and I’m the first mate. On land, I’m the foreman and he’s the journeyman.

These roles are still evolving, but by now all of the broad parameters are well established. For instance, he puts the trailer hitch on the pickup and loads in the boating gear that we store in the garage. I drive the truck to Sunshine Storage where the 26-foot Frankie spends seven months of the year atop her trailer on a gravel pad with a roof above.

At the storage compound, I back the truck up to the trailer’s long tongue hitch point, while my son directs with arm signals and verbal alerts. “Stop. Enough. Go back! A little to the right. Perfect!”

I then get out of the cab and come back to assist with the hitch clamping. This is a job that really benefits from a second set of eyes. You need to get down on your knees and inspect the safety mechanism on the clamp above the hitch ball. You need to make sure that the trailer tongue leg and winch are functional.

We both do the routine inspections and signal agreement that the requisite steps are being followed as we connect the trailer to the truck once again.

Before the tow to Jeff, our trusted boat mechanic at Valley Marine, we also both check the safety chain on the trailer winch to make sure it’s connected, as are the two nylon safety straps that secure the Frankie’s stern to the trailer.

The last visual checks are the safety chains, turn signals and brake lights on the trailer. This year we discovered that the left turn bulb wasn’t working. I made a mental note to take the route that only involved right turns to Valley Marine.

I also checked that the 2019 insurance decal was on the trailer’s licence plate. It was.

Finally it was time to go.

Jeff was ready for us and I had remembered to bring his invoice for services provided to winterize the Frankie last November. A quick scan revealed that a series of battery, filter and fluid level checks were all that was really needed.

One hour later, we were en route to the boat launch ramp. A quick eyeballing of the facility revealed that the tide-line was quite a way down the ramp but no one else was queued to launch. So we decided to go for it.

My son jumped out of the truck to signal my reversing of trailer and truck down the ramp. I began the process of orienting the truck and trailer for the best chance at reversing the rig into the water. Typically, the instinctive moves began to replay in my head and hands. “Turn the wheel in the opposite direction you desire the trailer to travel; engage trailer mode and four-wheel-drive high; check your mirrors; look backwards and guide your truck as needed. Follow his hand signals. …”

As always, the first couple of attempts at reversing were abortive. The third worked like cake. The trailer was now half submerged and my son was arranging fore and aft bumpers and painters on the port side of the Frankie. He had unclipped the bow safety chain and the stern straps. I religiously applied the truck’s hand brake.

The piece de resistance of boat launching is hearing the direction, “Give her a little bump!” This involves the captain taking control of the operation, as the boat is now almost afloat.

I released the hand brake, reversed a tiny bit and hit the brakes. The Frankie floated off her trailer-bed, ready for the summer. The ritual was complete.

Troy Media columnist Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery.

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