Goodbye helicopter, Hello snowplow

Published on August 19th, 2019

by Chris Caswell, Sailing Magazine
The college admissions scandal, aside from being distasteful and embarrassing, has taught me a new term. To all of you from nasty northern climates with very short sailing seasons, a snowplow is something quite commonplace. To a former Californian and now Floridian, a snowplow is as alien as a spinning wheel, but now it is being used in a new way.

I’ve taken more than a few shots at helicopter parents, who hover anxiously around their children in sailing junior programs, but the cheating scandal upped the ante by calling them “snowplow parents,” who simply bulldoze everything out of their child’s way by whatever means available. That might mean throwing money at a college admissions officer, or it might be by hiring a private coach with chase boat for their little snowflake.

I shake my head when I’m at one of the local yacht clubs, watching the kids get ready for their junior sailing program, and there are a bunch of parents rigging the boats. As a kid, we would have been incredibly humiliated if our parents had rigged our boats for us. It was something we did together, helping each other when necessary but taking responsibility for getting the job done by ourselves. My mother’s total involvement was to hand me my favorite floppy hat and a tube of Sea & Ski and tell me to have fun.

I had no one to protect me from doing something stupid, like getting fingers in the way when attaching a boom or lowering a centerboard. And because no one shielded me from difficulties or disappointments, I learned to stand on my own. Trust me, I only held a fully loaded spinnaker halyard once as I released it when dousing the chute. Smoked my hand, learned a lesson.

If I forgot to pack a sandwich or, more likely, forgot to stow it someplace dry, I was the one with a soggy sandwich at lunch. There was no mommy-boat to fix things, and I learned to carefully waterproof anything I wanted to eat later, and it wasn’t a plastic bag back then, it was multiple layers of wax paper with a rubber band. – Full story

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