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 Chapter 7


Having received a thank-you post card from Diane with a picture of the Statue of Liberty, reflective of her escape from the cruise schooner, you prepare for little cruising yourself. It does, of course, save money to live on a rowboat as opposed, say, to buying a larger boat or staying in motels. Your various wives have wondered why, having so much money, you refuse to spend any. You generally responded,

"If I spent my money, then I wouldn't have any."

At this point, communication almost always seemed to break down, perhaps because they failed to appreciate the underlying principle. In any case, you can now proceed exactly as you wish.

It takes a number of trips in the rubber boat to ferry out everything you'll need. You start with many gallons of water. It's unlikely that you'll be blown out to sea by a northwest gale, but it's good to be prepared. Next comes a quantity of canned tuna, V-8 juice, lime juice, and other juices. One doesn't want to get scurvy. For other sorts of nutrition, you take out an assortment of balance bars, fruit bars, and sundries. These supplies can be stored, with the bottles of water, in the bow on the bottom of the boat, wedged so that there is no movement when the boat rolls. You want the boat trimmed by the bow, and this accomplishes it.

Harder to ferry out is the big old fiberfill sleeping bag you've had for twenty years. It warms well, even when wet, and is super comfortable. The last wife complained because it had never been washed, and the next to last wife said that it was your security blanket. It nevertheless fits nicely over the food and drink, coming up to the level of the seats. More compact is the tent and the bags of assorted clothing, toiletries, etc.

The anchor and anchor rode are already aboard, just forward of the rowing seat, and the two pairs of extra oars go length-wise over all three seats, leaving room for you in the center of the rowing seat. The compass is secured by light line to the center of the after seat, facing you, and the battery-powered lights are in the very stern. There is also room there for the water-proof case with your camera equipment. Finally, you put aboard York mint patties and cakes of your favorite unsweetened cooking chocolate, a must for anyone who wishes to maintin high morale on the high seas.

The boat feels much heavier in the water as you begin rowing, but, once you reach speed, it takes hardly any extra effort to keep it there. Not only that, with your increased weight forward and added momentum, you break through the light chop so easily that you hardly notice it.

Just as you reach the outer islands, a thick white fog rolls in on the southwest breeze. It all happens in the space of ten minutes or so, to the point where you can only see fifty feet, but you're used to Maine. You have a miniature chart (Part of a waterproof series put out for kayakers), and you know the timing sequences for the different fog horns. The sound bounces around so much in the fog that you can't steer by it, but it's nice to know that someone (actually a mechanical robot these days) cares.

In any case, you steer a dead reckoning course on your compass which should lead you to the middle of a high island with cliffs to seaward. You'll hear the surf long before you pile into it.

Some forty minutes later, you indeed hear surf. Approaching cautiously, a mass looms out of the fog ahead of you, and you come closer. The water bouncing off the cliffs about equalizes that pushing you toward them, and so your position is stable. You don't recognize the shore at all, but nothing looks the same in the fog, and you're confident that you've hit the right island. You consequently turn to the south and row along the shore.

Following the shoreline turns out not to be as easy as it might seem. You can't get too close, but a moment's inattention will put you far enough away to lose the island entirely. On one occasion, you do, in fact, have to come back in guided by the sound of the surf. Eventually, however, you reach what seems to be the southern-most point. A quick jog to the east confirms the matter.

Within minutes of settling on your new course, the fog begins to thin. You see the island as a whole, and then all sorts of things. You drift for a bit to have some canned tuna and V-8, and then set course for an island some eight miles away.

There's a nice little fifteen knot south southwest breeze with modest whitecaps, not the white horses of a thirty knot breeze, and, since you're heading northeast by east, the quartering wind and sea would be turning you abruptly were it not for the steering oar. As it is, you go flying along with only a moderate effort of the oars.

As you pull into the lee of the treeless island, you smell the sweet grass and hear the call of the gulls. There's a little cove in the middle of the island, and, imagining yourself to be the navigator of a sixteenth century pinnace, you move slowly over the water as it sucks gently out of the cove. Finding an area safely distant from the rocks, even allowing for the ebb of the tide, you reach back and throw the anchor with the length of chain attached. It sinks slowly through the clear water until it disappears. You pay out rope amounting to twice the depth, and, rowing gently away from the anchor, there's a tug as the boat is brought around.

Anchoring is a symbolic activity, the analogue of homesteading, just as it was hundreds of years ago. Some of those old seamen and fishermen may have had settled home lives with wives waiting for them, but most probably had no idea what they might find if they ever returned to Europe. For all practical purposes, their ship was their home. This thought sets ideas racing in your head.

Getting back to basics, you place your three pairs of oars length-wise over the three seats with the blades forward. The handles are placed in little loops attached to a 2 x 4. The oars won't then separate when you get on them. The tent is next broken out, the smallest one that North Face manufactures. The small end is tied to the very bow of the boat, as is the fly sheet. The ends of the first semi- circular pole rest right on the forward seat. You then stretch out the tent, running lines and bungee cords from the various attachments on the tent to the oarlocks and the stern of the boat. The tent is just short enough to allow you to crawl out without crawling overboard.

While it might be good to sleep on the bare oars, you have a dinosaur of an air mattress which was once autographed by Ted Williams. It has a funny rubbery smell and is far too big, heavy, and cumbersome for back-packing. But it's ideal for separating the body from the oars. Next comes the big old sleeping bag to add to the luxury of your situation.

There's canned tuna and V-8 juice for dinner, followed by a York mint patty. You eat sitting on the stern seat with your feet (minus shoes and socks) in the water, happy that the mosquitos haven't found you. But they can't be denied for too long next to any Maine island, and you soon move inside and close up.

It's truly pleasurable to lie to the motion of the boat as she swings to her anchor. You recall that one of your ancestors was scalped by Indians as he lay asleep in his sloop off Damariscove Island, but you're presently miles from there.

Things aren't so good the next morning an hour before dawn. You're awakened by the boat's rolling in a brisk northwest breeze from which there's no shelter in the cove. Since the boat normally lies to the wind, and the tent tends to squat under those conditions, there isn't much danger of it's being blown over with you trapped inside the tent. However, the boat is yawing a good deal at its anchor, and the wind catches it partly from the beam at each yaw. You scramble out in the darkness, almost plunking yourself over the stern into the water, and then, amid much scraping of ankles, manage to get the tent down. You could go back to sleep without the tent, but you're woken up, so you pack everything away.

Crawling up to the bow, and banging a knee on the way, you pull in on the anchor rode until it sticks. Then, giving a mighty heave, you fall over backwards when the anchor is sucked out of the mud. You land partly on the rolled up sleeping bag, but also hit your head on the rowing seat. The rope comes easily after that, and, when you reach the chain, you clank it aboard. The anchor brings up a good deal of mud, some of which is deposited on the sleeping bag, but the bag has experienced worse than that.

Once clear of the cove and the island, you are in the open ocean just in time for dawn. You row south to get a good view to the east. You hurt in half a dozen places, but it's worth it.

Later that day, you arrive at a small tourist harbor. It's filled with attractive restaurants and cafes, which you may frequent, and also expensive hotels, which you will avoid. The mooring buoys all belong to yacht clubs, but you find a little cove which is too shallow for the yachts and drop your hook. You then inflate your rubber boat and row to the public landing. It's forbidden to tie up for more than three hours, but no one will object if you lash your boat to the railing of the landing stage.

In addition to the eating facilities, there are suitable roads for running, and there's also a YMCA. After using the equipment, you take a nice shower and repair to a nearby restaurant.

Having eaten, you wander out of town on a back road and come upon a young man working on an old car in a patch of weeds beside the road. It is, in fact, a large very rusty old Cadillac sedan. As you watch, he gets in and starts the engine, producing an enormous roar. There's obviously no muffler, and not even an exhasust pipe. As the car jerks and bounces slowly over the rough ground, it sounds as if there are also serious transmission problems. The young man stops abruptly and jumps out, the driver's door falling off as he does so.

The youth, cursing with sincerity, has prickly red hair and a visage and expression likely to dishearten the parents of any young lady he might court. But he seems exactly right for your purposes. Unlimbering your audio-visual equipment, you offer him five hundred dollars, which you have in cash, to perform an experiment.

Having set up some eighty feet from the left side of the car with your equipment, you signal the young man to start. He picks up a large rock, and carries it to the car. He then starts the car, and, leaving it in neutral, he places the rock on the accelerator. As he sprints toward you, the scream of the engine approaches a kind of acoustical nirvana. The whole car shakes, as if in pain, and there is then a sharp series of cracks and screeches as metal rends. A piece of something or other flies right up through the closed hood in a cloud of gathering steam and smoke. The noise of the engine then ceases abruptly, to be replaced only by the peaceful crackling of the flames emerging from the car. As you walk away, well satisfied, you peel off ten fifties for the smirking youth.

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