Family

Mapping Lake Massapoag With My Dad

When we and the other volunteers finished our parts of the survey, my father collected the data and drew up the map.

Sometime in the Spring of 1963, my father asked if I could help him with a project.

That was unusual. My father seldom needed help with anything, not even major construction projects. The only other time I remember him explicitly requesting help was when he needed someone to mix a medium amount of cement for a small foundation. It wasn’t enough to order it delivered, but that more than two people could get it done in the required time.

What he needed this time was much more unusual. He wanted help mapping rocks on Lake Massapoag in our home town of Sharon, MA.

The Massapoag Yacht Club, where my father was a long time member, needed the map. Buoys already marked dangerous rocks, but sailors also need to know the depths of rocks under high and low water conditions. A small boat might be safe crossing over a particular rock at any time; a larger craft might need to be careful only when the water is low. Three Massapoag Yacht Club members had volunteered to do the surveying, which would require dropping a sounding line to measure rock depths at different times.

For a few days, my father and I rowed about the lake. When we reached each known rock site, I’d lower the sounding line, and my father would write down the results. We could have been faster with a motor, but my father (and I think most of the members) would only give up oars in an emergency. The Yacht Club did have a motorboat ready for any true need, but I only recall anyone using it rarely. My father referred to any motorized boat as a “stinkpot”. I shared his distaste, although I never did master rowing well.

When the other volunteers and we finished our parts of the survey, my father collected the data and drew it up. The club reproduced it for the other members, and that was the last time I saw it.

More recently, my siblings and I have been digging out old photos. These included many images of sailing at the lake and the lovely photo of my butt as I let out the sounding line. Of course, that reminded me of the map. I wondered if the Yacht Club still had a copy (mapping like that is done by satellite now), so I wrote to them. I had an answer within hours: yes, they had a copy and still had the original. Diane, the woman who responded, offered to meet me at the club the following Sunday.

I arrived early. The club has changed since I was last there, but many things were exactly as I remember them. I was not an enthusiastic sailor, but my family spent many hours there when I was young. Memories came flooding back, and nostalgia made it hard for me to speak to people who wondered why I was taking pictures and movies of such mundane subjects like the seventy-year-old steps leading to the beach or the rock counterbalance hanging from the gate.

When Diane arrived, she led me to the map, mounted on a thin piece of Masonite, the yellowed and faded original on one side, and a copy on the other. We took it out into the sunlight, and I started to photograph it.
She interrupted me. “No, we want you to have it.”

She interrupted me. “No, we want you to have it.”

I protested that a photo was fine, that it was part of the club history.

“We wanted it to go to family,” she responded, “but no one knew how to reach you.”

I’m choking up again from remembering that. It’s a silly thing to get all teary-eyed over, but it was something my father and I did together, and holding it in my hands meant so much to me. I thanked her too many times; if not for the pandemic, I would have hugged her.

I walked around for a bit, taking more pictures and talking to people. I met someone around my age who remembered my father. I didn’t recognize his name, but that was many years ago. He told me that a storage locker my father built in 1982 had recently rotted away, and another member replaced it, putting back the sign that identified it as my dad’s work. I took a picture of that before I left.

My oldest daughter will be moving back up this way in a few years. I will give it to her for her new home then and ask that she return it to the Massapoag Yacht Club when she is ready. For now, it’s sitting in my office. I look at it every day and remember those few days sounding rocks on the lake with my dad.

Retired Unix Consultant. Kicking back and enjoying writing now. Not seeking work, not selling anything. No longer responsible for my old aplawrence site.

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