For years I have gone back and forth on the idea of a tattoo. I could simply never come up with anything that I felt strongly enough about to permanently scar my body. Recently, I was visiting a friend in Gorham, ME and I noticed his tattoo on his ankle. It was a small green shamrock with the three birthdates of his kids under it. He is very passionate about his heritage and simply adores every minute he spends with his kids. The tattoo makes perfect sense.
This got my wheels turning. I wanted a tattoo to include my kids’ initials and birthdates. If nothing else, it’ll keep me from missing those important days over the next 30-40 years. The letters and dates alone will look like a prison branding, so I had to come up with something to compliment them. I sketched a couple of sun designs and browsed through the tribal and Japanese lettering on the internet, but still nothing hit home with me.
My family and I spend our summer weekends on Cape Cod at my wife’s family’s house in West Yarmouth, MA. A couple summers back, I can remember the day it hit me. I was sitting on the porch. My two kids were playing happily beside me. I had my flip-flop adorned feet kicked up on the porch rail and was sipping a cold Guinness after a sun-drenched jog to Seagull Beach. The large gray porch is about the height of the sandy dunes 50 yards away and has a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean. I remember it being one of those moments when I make it a point to stop and count my blessings. Life, at that moment, was perfection. I took another sip of my beer and glanced off to the left to see a number of sails emerging from around the line of houses further down on the beach. Upon closer inspection, they were all gaff-rig boats…catboats. I remembered that the Catboat Association was having a race that weekend on Bass River and figured this must be the fleet. I rose up out of my seat and stared off in the distance. I must have stood and stared quite deliberately because my 4-year-old daughter, Maggie, walked over next to me and pushing up on her toes to see over the porch rail railing asked, “What are you looking at, Daddy?” I remained silent for another moment. It was pure poetry to see the majestic sails all bobbing in unison off in the distance. Eventually I sat back down, took Maggie on my lap, and we sat there in the warm sunshine as I pointed out the sails on the horizon. The perfect moment in time got just a little better as my daughter listened intently to my explanation of catboats.
That night, lying in bed with the ocean breeze rolling in through the screen door, I put the tattoo wheels back in motion. What concepts come to mind when I think of my kids and my family? Happiness, beauty, serenity, hopes of prosperity and longevity, adventure, excitement. What is the one thing in my life that I can stare at with a similar adoration that I gaze at my kids with? The answer was simple. It is a catboat, and more specifically, the boats I have always dreamed of owning, Marshall Catboats. I have sailed on a handful of similar sized cats, but for some reason, the Marshalls have captured my heart and has been my dreamboat for years. I always gazed at every one that passed by, imagining the adventures we could have on such a beautiful vessel.
I mulled it over for another couple of months and well into the winter. Tattoos need to be kept dry and I did not want to spoil any summer swim time with the kids. I eventually made the leap and started scouring the Internet for pictures of Marshall Catboats that would make a worthy permanent mark on my body. I found some beauties, but nothing that appealed to me in tattoo form. So, I decided to go to the source. I got on the Marshall Marine website and after gazing at the various pictures, I sent out the following email to whomever was going to answer the “Contact Us” email link:
Hello, I am in the process of getting a tattoo. My goal is to incorporate a catboat as well as my kids initials and birthdates. As far as the catboat goes, it has been a dream of mine to graduate from my current Sturdee Cat to a Sanderling and eventually a Marshall 22. Marshall cats simply capture the classic lines and beauty of what a catboat is and is supposed to be, and I have always loved seeing them out on Cape Cod where I sail. So, my request to you is that I was wondering if you had any renditions of the 22 or Sanderling that you would be willing to email or mail to me. Maybe some simple lines sketches or something to that effect…
I received a reply from Kristen Marshall. How exciting! An actual “Marshall” family member replied to this odd request for tattoo art! She mentioned that she “loved the enthusiasm” and attached a whole album of beautiful photos including a simple line drawing of the Marshall 22. I knew as soon as I saw it that I had found my first Marshall and I would soon own it in the form of black ink on my shoulder accompanied by my kids’ initials and birth dates.
I have since had numerous compliments on it and found myself explaining the significance of it to friends and family. My kids ask to see it all the time and I used to tell them that someday Daddy will own one and that we can all sail to new adventures and sleep overnight on it. To that, Maggie always replied, “Maybe Santa will bring you one for Christmas, Daddy.” Santa never brought me one, but I worked hard and kept my eye out for a deal and finally purchased one in the fall of 2011, I still enjoy showing off my 6-inch Marshall everywhere I go and in some catboat circles, I am officially “the tattoo guy.” Summer 2014 is just around the corner and the family can’t wait to embark on some new adventures on Marsaili, my very own 1973 Marshall Sanderling.
Thank you for reading!