Rabbit 175 are the distinguishing markers at the top of the mainsail on my father’s twelve foot catamaran. My Dad, Sam Brimacombe, bought the sailboat in 1966. My mother was furious with this “frivolous purchase” but everyone else was thrilled. This was his boat and he loved her. She kept great numbers of family and friends well entertained over many decades.
Everyone knew that the catamaran with the blue and white sails on Lake Bernard at Sundridge, Ontario was Sam’s boat. Sundridge is really home base for our family. My grandfather’s farm is still run by my Uncle Roger (Dad’s brother) and his bride of 60 years, Isabelle.
My family was fortunate to spend every summer at the cottage. Our mother was a teacher, so we had almost two full months at the cottage – to go sailing. My Dad taught my siblings, Peter, Susan, Elizabeth, and me how to rig the boat. We soon acquired the skills and confidence to sail her solo.
It was great fun when the wind picked up and we grabbed the ropes to the sails, leaned back, and screamed with excitement as we zoomed along the water. Every fall, the sailboat would come off the lake for the season. The fibreglass hull was stored in barn on the family farm. This tradition lasted for many years.
Life in our family however was changing. My Dad’s cancer was growing and his ability and interest to keep sailing came to an end.
The catamaran remained in the barn, un-used for about fifteen years but we had not forgotten her. After my Dad’s death in 2005, the topic of the sailboat came up again and again. What should we do with the boat? What would we like to do with the boat?
In 2008, we decided that it was time to fix the old girl up and get her ready to be back on the lake for the family to enjoy once more. A year later, with great fanfare, cheers, clapping, and yes a few tears, my sister Susan and I re-launched our Dad’s boat.
What was a good idea in 1966 remains a great pleasure for our larger family now and for the future. Our sailboat, Rabbit 175, is a tribute to our Dad and to the skills he taught us. We learned to crew together and to sail solo. Sailing has become a powerful metaphor for how we live our lives. We cannot control many circumstances: the wind, the waves, or indeed that death comes to us all. We can control some things: how we set our sails (some decisions we make), to keep steady hands on the tiller (live by ethical principles), and pick a skilled crew who can help (family and friends). Thank you Dad.