Truer words were never spoken. I’ve always enjoyed that quote, although I must confess I have never actually read The Wind in the Willows. Today, when I was greeted with a beautiful sunrise on a freezing cool winter morning, I decided it would be perfect day for Messing About in Boats.
One of the factors that make a spur of the moment kayak trip a thing of beauty is understanding the “Hassle Factor” when it comes to getting ones boat launched and underway. If going out yachting included hooking up a huge boat trailer to a dual axle truck, or driving to a marina, where I would need to unplug from the shore power and disconnect the TV cable from my 30 something foot vessel…Well, most of the time the Hassle Factor would just get the better of you and there would be a lot less Messing About in Boats.
As it is my “yacht” is one of a small flotilla of sea kayaks. Today’s choice- an Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro. Actually, that kayak has been my boat de jour for about 99% of all paddling trips ever since the first time I launched it. My preparation involves backing the van out of the garage, throwing the boat on the top, toss in one mesh bag of gear, and a five or ten minute drive to any of a dozen different launch points. A quick check of the weather and tides and I’m on my way.
I had a mission this morning. I was heading out to Union Slough to “investigate” a big old minesweeper that was aground and listing to starboard. We’d spotted the vessel a few weeks ago from a walking trail on the south side of the slough, when we were glassing for snowy owls on the tidal marshes of Smith Island. Today I had a little scheme in mind, “surreptitious boarding, and photo exploration”.
Once again my mission was assisted by Susan dropping me off up river in Union Slough and leaving my van at 10th Street. That would allow me to make a one way journey.
I navigated my way under the highway and through the old pilings. Drifting frequently to take photos. A note about cameras: I had two on board for this trip. A Pentax W90 waterproof camera tucked in my PFD ( I could use that in any conditions and not have to worry about it getting damaged), and I had my new Canon S100 rolled into a small drybag attached to my vest (for those moments when it was safe to break out that little jewel).
Eventually I paddled up on the stricken vessel. I navigated around the perimeter and took some photos. Just as I was hatching my boarding plan I noted an aluminum work boat approaching. Uh oh, was I busted? Not really!
The work boat pulled along side and a very friendly gentleman advised he was “just coming over to make sure I wasn’t hung up on the vessel”. Well, that was a far cry from the “get the hell away from my boat” I was expecting.
I had a wonderful floating chat with Jim. He described the vessel as a 130 foot former Navy minesweeper, first launched in 1946. Jim explained they were planning to get her righted and thought that the 13-foot high tide coming this next Thursday or Friday may be the ships’ ticket out of it’s current predicament. We bounced around in the incoming waves as we both expressed our admiration for the history and craftsmanship of the wooden craft. Eventually Jim said he had to get back to work, adding that his tiny little Sea Quest Marina was the oldest marina in the state and had been there since 1896. Who knew?
Jim’s final comment was an invite to stop in and visit the marina some time, and the statement, “If you were going to climb on board, don’t get hurt”. My mind instantly translated that into “welcome aboard matey”.
Holy cow! There is no way to describe how difficult, strenuous, disorientating, and creepy it was inside the vessel. Instant vertigo, and every muscle flexing in an attempt to move across a deck that is at a 45% angle. To move from one cabin to another I had to grab onto the bulkhead and pull myself up (across the floor). Very unsettling!
Sooner, rather than later, it was time to abandon ship. I made the off-camber climb down the ladder and plopped back into the relatively level and serene world of my sit-on-top kayak.
What a relief it was to be back on board my tiny little craft. I celebrated with a cup of tea and let the kayak drift down stream. Although there wasn’t much drifting to be done because the wind had come up a bit.
I paddled down the tip of Smith Island where I beached the kayak and scanned the marsh for snowy owls. Unfortunately no owls but lots of eagles and Northern harriers.
All too soon it was time to make the crossing south to Jetty Island. The wind was up to about 5 knots and there was a little tidal swell running, but just enough to keep things interesting.
About half way across I was able to tuck in behind some old pilings and a barge and take a little break. Man the sun on my face was wonderful. I made the crossing over to Jetty Island for a little photo stop, and then it was on down to 10th Street, where my van was waiting. Once again the minimal Hassle Factor was appreciated. All I had to do was land my boat, stick my wheels under the craft and tow it like a wagon right up to my van.
That’s about it. I had a great little adventure on a gorgeous winter day, and I was back home in about ten minutes. How about one last image to close out this story: