High Slack

I can see a little boat from the window of my shack, floating high in the water when the tide is in, grounded on the beach when the tide is out.  She is painted white and black and teal.  Sometimes a magpie will perch on the gunwale; their colors are a perfect match.

Today is my 45th birthday, and after a lazy morning of coffee and books, I felt at a bit of a loss.  What should I do today?  It should be something different, not a hike or a bike ride.  Maybe I could take the little boat out for a row.  I asked my neighbor Walt (he is looking after the boat while the owner is away) whether he thought I might borrow it.  “Sure, I don’t see why not,” he said, “except there aren’t any oars for it.”

Thereafter followed at least half an hour of shenanigans, and thankfully Walt is willing to drop everything he’s doing at a moment’s notice to follow through on other peoples’ projects.  Walt had some oars he could lend me, but the oar locks on the boat weren’t big enough.  So he fetched some oar locks.  Then I realized that the tide was too high for me to retrieve the boat, which was tied at the bow but also anchored at the stern.  Walt fetched his hip boots so I could wade in, climb over the side, and untie the anchor line.  As soon as I stepped into the water, I could feel cold water leaking into the right boot, then, a bit more slowly, the left.  So I bailed the boat, then took a trip up to the Shack to get some dry socks and boots.  I hung the hip boots upside-down by my woodstove so they could at least start to drip-dry.  “Why is this so hard?” I was starting to think.  But I should know better.  Anything involving boats usually is a lot more complicated than you think it will be.  And anything worth doing usually takes a little bit of effort.

Finally, Walt fetched some Vaseline to lube the leathers on the oars.  I managed to work the grease-glued knots loose from the original oar locks and tie the new oar locks in place.  Then I pushed off from the shore.  As always, that first moment of being afloat is a relief.  It is a weight lifted.  If it isn’t joy, I don’t know what is.  The smooth transformation from land-creature to water-creature, the sudden shift in perspective — looking back at the usual, seeing it from out there — there’s nothing like it.

I’ve timed my row so that I’ll be going up the Slough as the last of the tide comes in, then float back down the Slough toward home as the tide turns and starts to flow out.  I’m hitting it right at high slack.  I like the sound of that.  High slack seems like a good place to be on your birthday.

A grebe pops up near me.  A trio of loons float nearby.  A kingfisher chatters and swoops down to the water’s surface, catching something — a small fish?  Bald eagles, harlequin ducks, moon jellies, clam shells and eel grass, a sea otter so close I could almost reach out and touch his head with one of the oars.  He dives and then crunches on a clam.  I row and drift upstream, then watch the tide turn.  It’s not very dramatic in this spot at this time, no boiling rapids or treacherous whirlpools.  But autumn’s alder leaves are now floating down toward the ocean, instead of up toward the lagoon.  I go with the flow.  Easy.

First you have to row a little boat.

First you have to row a little boat.

This entry was posted in Alaska, Birds, Boats, Seldovia. Bookmark the permalink.

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