When Frank Bronkowski, my father, was alive, he’d read and reread his Polish newspapers, the Gwiazda Polarna, the Nowy Dziennik.  He’d speak no English on Sundays and drink a Polish beer.  His pocket watch—brought from the old country—stands in its place of honor on the dining-room table.  Next to it, Ma has fresh peonies in the vase shaped like the Virgin Mary praying.  When I’m home from sailing like I am now, Ma heats up my favorite lunch.  With a flour-sack bib around my neck, I make the Sign of the Cross, wind my dad’s watch, then dine on a chunk of Russian rye and two or three cans of Beanie Weenies.  Done, I wipe my face and hands with a damp washcloth and signal for dessert.

How I got here after the accident starts with the wheelsman Orville Lee.  He’ll tell you how to sail from Buffalo to the Southeast Shoal on Lake Erie.  “When you’re heading upbound, lay a 248 course for sixty miles to pass off of Long Point, Ontario,” he’ll say.  “Then steer the 249 course for 134 miles to one mile south of the shoal.”  He can tell you how to sail from the old lighthouse at Point Iroquois on Lake Superior to Outer Pancake Shoal, and from there, home.  By talking to him and studying lake charts, I’ve learned that vessels contact Seaway Long Point, VHF-FM channel...

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