CAPE COD BAY — I’m sitting in the cockpit of Lola, a reliable 37-foot sailboat, bound from Newport, about 10 nautical miles southwest of Provincetown, cocooned in fog so thick the brightly colored lobster pots 150 feet away appear as tiny ghostly orbs floating on a glass sea.
It’s September 11. And I’d rather be here right now than where I was last night, in front of a television in a bar, watching flight AA-11 explode against the North Tower.
One time. Two times. New camera angle (as a career journalist, I’ll tell you it was not a bad shot.) One more.
Every single explosion, of course, a brutally violent shock, even 22 years later, that Al Filipov, my dad, was on that plane.
Better to remember the things Al meant to me, did for me, and tried to teach me. And a big one was my love of sailing.
“Don’t sail in the fog, David,” was not one of them. We sailed Jalda II up and down the New England coast, from Plymouth to the farthest reaches of Penobscot Bay, in rain, storms, at night, and in the thickest pea soup the Gulf of Maine can serve up.
Jalda (named for my brother and parents, Jeffrey-Allan-Loretta-David-Al) was a 22-foot Bristol sailboat that had no business venturing beyond the outer harbor, much less beyond sight of land.
And yet, as I flip through the pages of Jalda’s log book, written in the clipped, precise, businesslike sailorly tone Al liked to use, imagining himself the master of an 18th-century British sloop-of-war, I see nothing but the joy of beating the odds in challenging conditions, making the passage that no one makes, being the only boat out here.
Even as I hear my courageous mother, Loretta, whispering, so the kids don’t hear, “Al, why are we the only boat?”
“Where’s your radar, David,” my dad’s voice never says to me. Jalda didn’t have one. It was before the time of GPS and interactive charts you can use on your iPhone, which somehow has two bars even out here, 35,000 lobster pots from shore.
“You have an eye on that weather?” he never asks.
He does tell me stories, still now, about his adventures in the Canadian far northwest, hunting caribou and avoiding bear.
He does tell me how he would tinker with this gadget and adjust that kluge. Dad was an inventor, a math genius, a family man who loved his sons and learned baseball, downhill skiing, tennis, and yes, ocean sailing, so that we would love it.
He believed in justice and making friends and understanding people who didn’t think like him —qualities that I believe made me a good journalist.
It’s fitting that there is an award in his name given to police and firefighters in Concord who performed acts that went above and beyond to help others. (See story) That’s something else he tried to teach us.
And patience, upon which I will draw if I find myself in a bar tonight and the screen erupts with those grainy images.
Or maybe I’ll ask Jason, the cheery fellow at the helm, who just sailed around the world on his own 30-foot sailboat, to drop the sails. If we bob around out here for a while, I can look at grainy lobster pots instead.
Al Filipov also taught us punctuality.
But I don’t think he’ll mind if Lola comes into port a little late today.