Keeping a watchful eye: A Grandpa’s message to his little sailor

Far left, Dave in the cockpit of Phyllis with his father, Joe Roper. At left Dave’s granddaughter Rosie takes the helm of Dave’s boat Elsa. Photos courtesy David Roper

October/November 2022

By David Roper

As you can see from the black and white photo here of your Poppy, I have been watching much longer than you, for more than sixty years, in fact. Sailors know it is important to always keep a watchful eye, to look forward as best they can to try and see or anticipate what’s coming – just as we’re both doing here in these pictures. But I can tell that you’re off to a great start at your watching. Just in case, though, here is what I’ve learned, dear one.

The course ahead can seem black and white. But it rarely is. Oh, there will be days when all looks clear, and the course ahead seems unfraught with obstacles or potential dangers. And there will also be foggy days and stormy ones with headwinds – days of uncertainty and trepidation, days when you’ll need an even more watchful eye. Both kinds of days can be deceiving. Some will be buoyed by gentle breezes and light, following seas, lifting you along, over the horizon. But what is over the horizon? We can’t see that. What is at the end of each day’s course? We don’t know until we’re already there.

Each time we cast off our lines and head out, we unleash a chain of events, both predictable and unknowable, many of which would never have happened if we’d stayed tied to shore.

Like the changing weather on a sea voyage, life will give and take much. It may give you a joyous surprise on your birthday. It may stagger you when the world takes away a loved one. It will hearten you when a true friend is there for you and stands up for you in the toughest of times. It will make you wary when another “friend” goes behind your back. And then life will give you moments of pure joy, an extra special feeling like when the breeze is at your back, and you’re surfing down a following sea on a shimmering day in the trade winds, when – even if only for a moment–you’re sailing in harmony with a world in which nothing else seems to matter.

Life is a voyage, with all that goes with it. And it is life’s dynamics that make it worthwhile. So, don’t be afraid to untie your lines, little one. Keep heading out. Keep sailing to that horizon. Prepare for the storms along the way. And surf those following seas.

Live life as best you can.

Be kind.

Be curious.

But keep a watchful eye.

David Roper’s upcoming novel, “The Ghosts of Gadus Island,” is scheduled for publication next year. Dave is the author of the three-time bestseller “Watching for Mermaids,” as well as the sequel “Beyond Mermaids” and the novel “Rounding the Bend.” All are available through or