20 September 2017: Launched my new boat! Joe and Carla came over with it on Tobben’s small trailer. They had the trailer behind their ATV. Joe drove, Carla sat behind him, and I rode in the boat. We went from the boardwalk around to the small public ramp on the other side of the Slough from the Shack. I’d grabbed a beer from the fridge at the last second (not having any champagne easily to hand) and as we backed the boat down to the water, I poured a bit of Alaska IPA over the bow. “We’ll think of a name later,” I said. I rowed my way across the Slough to the Shack Beach. She handles nicely!
23 September 2017: Rowed the Slough, riding the incoming tide up and under the bridge. I knew the current would be strong, but wanted to see how the boat handles and what kind of current I might be able to row against. We practically shot under the bridge and when I tried to turn around there was NO WAY I could gain an inch trying to get back through. But I could hold in place if I really put my back into it and rowed hard. I had to wait for high slack to be able to go back home, so had maybe an hour of “forced” puttering around looking at birds and sea life and such.
I’ve been parking the boat on the Shack Beach, with a small mushroom anchor off the starboard stern handle and a bow line up to a loop on Walt’s old skiff grate. Rowing times will be tidally dependent with this setup, but it makes it easy to access the boat to bail rainwater out, as I can just walk out there when the boat is grounded at low tide.
23 September 2017: Rowed the Slough. What a sense of freedom, to be able to go whenever I want. There’s a huge flock of gulls in town these days, more than I’ve ever seen, drawn by the massive pink salmon numbers. Rowing through the harbor, they let me get quite close without flushing — but then they do, wheeling away into the sky.
26 September 2017: The boat has been parked on Shack Beach for about a week now. I can see her from my window. At first I thought she was fairly ungainly and not that attractive (those bright blue rails!), but now she is growing on me. The unfortunate damage to the port side (it happened this summer when she got slammed up underneath a house during a high tide) is clearly visible from my window. There’s a metal trim strip that got broken and torn off; sometimes that pops off the rest of the way and sticks out. The grey paint on the topsides is flaking off. Some bare wood is showing on deck. The hull is marred with black streaks from the roller-wheels on Tobben’s trailer, and all the old Washington state registration number stickers are still showing, some peeled away, some still there. The light blue hull has that dusty bloom that old fiberglass gets if you don’t polish or wax it. The oars need refinishing. She’s a bit squat, but very stable! Walt said to me, “I hate to say this, but you can’t hurt that boat.” Meaning, I think, that she’s already so ugly there isn’t any farther down to go. But I like her, and want to fix her up. It’d be fun to paint her different colors – I’m not sure which. Walt wants red, but I don’t think so. I’ve decided to call her CHUUCHKI, which is the Unangam Tunuu (St. Paul Island Aleut) word for Least Auklet. She reminds me of a chuuchki. Kind of built the same, roundish and sturdy. Maybe a bit odd. But cute.
28 September 2017: Went over to Joe’s and he gave me the title for the boat. She was built in 1968 – older than me – and will be 50 this coming year!
15 October 2017: It was a stunning, blue-sky Sunday, flat calm, and perfect timing to go for a slightly bigger adventure. I rowed to Hoen’s Lagoon, with my camera and binoculars, and a scrap of paper and mechanical pencil, so I could keep track of the birds. The scoters let me get up close; mostly White-winged but with one Surf Scoter mixed in. Common Goldeneyes and Red-breasted Mergansers were a bit more shy, tucked in at the back of the lagoon. Glaucous-winged, Mew, and Herring Gulls hung out on the spit of sand just at the lagoon’s mouth. Two Common Ravens flew over, their wings creaking. Peek-through passages in the rock outcrops gave me a frame through which to view the head of the bay. Five river otters traveled by, lingering for a moment in a cave-like indentation along the cliff. One held a big fish in its mouth.
My phone made the texty noise. “Is that you rowing in the bay? Come on over if you want. I am going to make lunch soon.” It was Valisa, spotting me as she rowed her own boat to work at her Schooner Beach art studio. Of course I went over for lunch. We foraged for hedgehog mushrooms in the woods, and Valisa cooked them on her woodstove, with chicken and rice. Andrew joined us, and we sat on the floor to eat, sprinkling crunchy toasted garlic bits and Bragg’s on the food. It was a serendipitous meal with friends, in a place you can’t get to by walking. I love my boat!