Andrew Parkinson

Andrew Parkinson

Digging for a jacket in the darkest corner of my closet on a rare, cool Florida winter’s day, my fingers tapped something hard. Curiosity got the better of me, so I pulled out the offending obstacle: a timeworn wooden box containing my late grandfather’s fly-tying kit.

To my soft computer-key hands, the wood, having survived being handed down for generations, felt delicate if not brittle. It had a musty smell—not the malodorous kind that makes your lips pucker at the edges, rather, the nostalgic kind that returns you to a particular time and place, namely my grandparents’ house in England when I was 9. Perhaps sensing my preteen boredom, Granddad had lent me his fly-tying kit for something to do.

Opening the box unearthed a wonderworld of curious wares, from peculiar surgical gadgets like a bobbin and hackle pliers to a vice and a bodkin needle. There was also a kaleidoscope of more familiar trinkets, such as cements, glues, feathers, twines, yarns and threads of all colors. As a kid who loved to fish, I spent the remainder of our vacation absorbing the matchless art of fly-fishing from my grandfather.

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We practiced casting in the garden by day, and by night, we worked on my fly-tying skills. After a few days, I’d assembled a small collection of serviceable flies. To encourage my newfound passion, Granddad, Dad and my Great Uncle Bobby piled into one of those classic miniature European automobiles (which, with the four of us plus fly rods, must have been quite a sight for a sleepy English village). We drove to a stream in the countryside where fly-fishing for salmon was religion, and we fished.

While I can’t recall exactly what we caught that day—if anything—when I open that box today, I’m reminded what really matters about that final visit to Granddad’s house shortly before he died. That box contains sights, smells and sounds to last a lifetime.

I was struck by a similar nostalgia while attending Vintage Weekend at Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida, in December. If you are a fan of classic boats, cars or airplanes, I highly recommend it. (Besides, you can’t beat Florida Keys weather in December.) The collection of meticulous vintage vehicles is extraordinary, and the people who restore and maintain them are inspirational. Passagemaker contributor Cecilia Kiely recently unwrapped the passion that drives those folks, whose laborious hobby should encourage us all to give our current boats just a little more love. 

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To that, I wonder what we’ll be referring to as vintage 50 years from now, what with today’s boats in some cases entertaining as many as four generations of boaters. Will our own cruising rituals of today at all resemble our children’s nautical endeavors of tomorrow? Will a Fleming 55 one day be adored by the masses as a collector’s item at a Vintage Weekend?

I hope so. And when that day comes, I hope all that delightfully musty wood will mean as much to my grandkids as it does to me. 

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