BY ARLENE APPELROUTH / AJT //

Arlene Appelrouth

Arlene Appelrouth

A few days ago, when I hoped to spend time on my boat, rainy weather caused me to change plans. So instead, I headed to the outlet mall in Dawsonville – retail therapy isn’t as much fun as boating, but when it’s thundering and lightning, it’s a good second choice.

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I drove 15 minutes to the outlets, parked my car and began window-browsing. A wooden plaque with the words “Life’s Better on the Boat” caught my eye. It reflected how I feel and went along with the license plate holder on my car that says “I’d rather be boating.”

I wasn’t sure where I would put this wooden sign, but it was only $4.99 – just a little more than a latte at Starbucks. I paid the cashier and chuckled knowing there were others who shared one of my passions.

What can I say? Boating makes me happy.

Lake Lanier Love

Located only 35 miles north of Atlanta, the beautiful Lake Lanier attracts millions of people annually. This year, with the water level at 1071 feet – “full pool” – the surface area of 38,000 acres is spectacular. It’s hard to believe the lake is man-made.

Whenever I share my love of Lake Lanier with anyone, I get on my boat and take them to Buford Dam. But really, anywhere along the 540 miles of shoreline is a good place to admire the natural beauty.

I love giving a history lesson to adults and children alike, explaining that the lake came into existence as a result of engineering. The Chattahoochee River and the Chestatee Rivers provided the basic elements, and building the dam made it possible.

The primary reason Buford Dam was flood control, water supply and power production. Since, there has been a lot of political noise surrounding the lake, but rather than boring you with that, I just want to say I’m grateful the Army Corps of Engineers which maintain the Lanier.

After almost 30 years of making it “my lake,” it still manages to take my breath away – and a sign in my house says, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Hardly an Impulse Buy

I had never driven a boat when I decided I had to have one. After taking endless walks by the Chattahoochee River during the first seven years I lived in Atlanta, my soul cried out for easy access to a large body of water.

After poring through the large number of classified ads in our local paper, I was able to determine that $10,000 was what it would take to purchase a good used boat. As for learning, one of my friends had purchased a boat, and she said she and her boyfriend would be glad to teach me how to operate one.

Speaking of, it surprised me to discover you don’t have to have a license to operate a boat. You have to register it, but no one tests your competence or understanding of what to do after turning on the ignition. But anyway…

It didn’t take long for me to buy a 7-year-old boat that came equipped with life jackets, skis and a large towable tube. Overnight, I became “Captain Arlene.”

I called my boat “The Orli 2” – “Orli 1” being me, as I went by that name when I was single and living on a kibbutz (but that’s a story for another column).

And just as I had once immediately adapted to loving life on a kibbutz, life on a boat came naturally and filled me with joy. Kids loved hanging on to a towable tube and being pulled at 25 miles per hour on the surface of the lake, and I also taught them how to water ski.

I loved sharing this fun and began inviting other families to join us.

The Birth of “Boat Lady”

Years later, a good friend introduced me to her parents, who were visiting from out-of-town. Her father, upon hearing my name, said he knew all about me.

“You’re the boat lady,” he said.

What a great nickname, I thought. After all, lots of kids in my neighborhood see me in that way.

For example: After a devastating car accident in 2007, I went to synagogue for three months in a wheelchair. A 9-year-old boy whose family had been our guests at Lake Lanier took one look at me and asked what was on his mind:

“Will you still be able to drive your boat?”

At the time, I hoped so – but the truth was that having broken both my ankles and being under doctor’s orders to not even try to stand for three months, I had no idea what my future held.

Eventually, my orthopedist gave me permission to resume normal activities.

This year, after I successfully got two teenagers skiing the first afternoon they ever tried, I was asked if I myself ski or enjoy tubing. The thing is, I’m always driving the boat, and so I have never had the delight of hanging on a tube on the back of my boat.

Two weeks ago, I decided it was time to change that. I purchased a tube called “Big Mabel,” which is much more than a round inner tube – “she” has a back and can comfortably seat two adults who sit like they are on a chaise lounge.

I could just envision comfortably sitting with my feet up next to a friend while someone else drives the boat.

I can hardly wait to inflate my new red-and-yellow tube and have the same kind of fun I’ve been providing for others for years.

Arlene Appelrouth earned a degree in news-editorial journalism from the University of Florida and her career as a writer and journalist spans a 50-year period; she currently studies memoir writing while working on her first book.

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