In addition to traditional Father's Day pursuits like gift-giving and sharing a special meal, some American dads will be out on pleasure boats with their families this Sunday, June 16. Indeed, boating, whether on a humble rowboat or a fancy yacht, can be a particularly healthful and relaxing way for fathers and their children to spend time together in celebration of Father's Day.
It is sunny high noon at Pier 51 on the Hudson River in New York City, and 26 year old Steve Tadd and his father Bruce Tadd prepare to take me on a little tour of New York Harbor on their their new motorboat, which also comes complete with a new CD player.
It is one part of an 8,000 kilometer loop that is taking Steve Tadd from North Carolina, up north through New York City to the Great Lakes, then down the Mississippi River and around the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, back home.
Steve said, "We're heading from Chelsea Pier out on to the Hudson River. See the Empire State Building? Yesterday I saw the Statue of Liberty." His father said, "You probably can't beat New York Harbor for a venue. You got a photograph a minute here."
But Steve Tadd says that for him and his father and many others like them, the sights and sounds of boating are merely the backdrop for something more intimate. "People these days," he said, "are looking for an opportunity to connect with their families. Time is precious and boating fits right into that. It offers adventure. It offers time to go out there to just be happy together."
For both Steve Tadd and his father Bruce, boating also means working together. "The weather comes up, or you need help docking the boat or whatever, everybody on a boat has a certain responsibilities," he said. "You kind of work together as a team to reach your goal, whatever that may be.
Adam Phillips: "So it's almost like a little microcosm of the way a family works."
Steve Tadd: "Definitely. Families on a boat; take little kids for example. You have a little five year old kid, you give them a responsibility, be it to wrap up the rope or to put the fender out or to clean the stainless steel. Whatever that may be, you take ownership of the experience and everyone works together to make the whole day work."
Bruce Tadd agrees with his son. He said, "The family boating experience is the way to keep the family together, I think. I started boating in 1973. And the first boat that I bought I passed on to Steve when he was six or seven or eight. And was sailing it off and running."
Steve Tadd: "It was actually the family dinghy."
Adam Phillips: "A dinghy is a little boat?"
Steve Tadd: "A dinghy is a little boat. It probably wouldn't fit the whole family in the boat at one time. But we tried to! My Christmas gift was an anchor, one year. [We'd] take that thing out and go fishing. Those sorts of gifts were really special. I look forward to passing those on to my kids when the time is right."
Family bonds also come from facing challenges together. Steve Tadd recalls one day sailing with his dad during his childhood when the calm waters suddenly turned rough.
Steve Tadd: "It started to blow pretty hard and I remember kind of getting freaked out and my dad was like 'Relax. You can just let go of the [steering] rudder if you want to.'"
Adam Phillips: "He soothed you and taught you to feel calm even if it was difficult."
Steve Tadd: "Yeah. There are a lot of tough times with the water. That's what makes it an adventure. Storms come up for example, seas pick up, it gets rough, [and] somebody's got to be in charge. And Dad was always that person, he was always in charge, always kind of saying 'we need to work together to make this work.'"
Adam Phillips: "How does it make you feel to hear him recount these kinds of memories?"
Bruce Tadd: "He remembers them better than I do. I had forgotten that one. But that's the thing: when two people are talking, you trigger memories. And there is nothing you can't remember when there's two people talking! Of course I'm a proud dad because he's doing what most of us would like to do in our spare time, he's doing fulltime! So you have to admire [it]."
Between the city ferries, the tour boats, the other pleasure craft and the gorgeous New York City skyline views, we've squeezed a lot of experience into this short voyage, before the home pier comes back into view.
Steve Tadd: "We're gonna back it in. Backing a boat in is kind of goofy. It's different than parking a car, but not that hard."
Adam Phillips: "See, you're in New York and you're already an expert parallel-parker!"
Steve Tadd: "You gotta do whatever the dock warrants."
Adam Phillips: "I guess every boat ride comes to a close, huh?"
Steve Tadd: "Yeah."
The day's trip may be over, but Steve Tadd will still have about 7,500 kilometers to go on this adventure.