The fiberglass hull crashed through the waves, chopping them with its hard chine. Wind blew the spray onto everything on the open deck: passengers, bags, and the Captain, as she ducked behind the pitiful windshield and gripped the steering wheel. Water ran down everywhere that wasn’t covered by her rain jacket, her glasses covered by salt water, obscuring her vision. Running nearly blind, she licked the salt from her lips, a taste she hadn’t tasted in far too long.
Sense memories flashing back to swimming in front of the cottage and water skiing between lobster buoys in her younger days. But this afternoon, she was trying to get her guys safely back to their little cove. What began as a fun adventure to check out a lighthouse she hadn’t seen since she was a child, turned into half a day of riding swells that with the afternoon’s increasing winds grew, making landfall on the island dangerously impossible, and the trip home more than soggy.
The ride out from the mooring area hadn’t been too bad, a little choppy, with land blocking most of the northwesterlies. Once the crew of three rounded the southern tip, reaching open ocean, their course took them across the mouth of a large river that was swallowing long, gentle swells. With 23 ft. of boat under them and over 200 horsepower to push them, they slowed down to a comfortable 4000 rpm and headed to the far side of the river, where off the neighboring peninsula lay a small island that rose just over 125 ft from the water. Atop her sat the second oldest lighthouse in the state, something the boy had wanted to see for a few years.
Because they were only in the area for a short vacation, they decided today would be the day to make it over there. As they made their way past rocky ledges and neared the light, waves crashed across rocks and across the tiny harbor. There was no safe harbor, so the small crew hung just off the lee of the island, in the calmest water the Captain could find. Swells lifted and lowered them about four to six feet as the wind continued to increase. They spent a short while holding position, having some lunch, and taking such pictures as they could, until it became obvious that they’d best head home.
Making way to return across the mouth of the river, the tide must have turned, because what had been long gentle swells were mounding up into shorter waves as wind and tide fought each other. The Captain had everything on deck secured, the hull pounding as it rode up the side of the wave and dove into the trough. She briefly considered altering course for a drier ride, tacking like a sailboat, but there was no course that would keep them dry and get them home, so she opted for the most direct route, slowing for safety. With the winds and seas, the boat was too small and too open. Waves drenched everyone and everything, the water running down the deck and out the well at the transom.
They finally reached the north side of the river, rounded the bend at another small lighthouse, and headed up the bay for home. By the time the Captain returned her crew of two to the dock, the only part of her that was still dry was about ten inches of her mid-section. She offloaded their bags at the dock with her guys and took the boat back to the mooring to put it to bed for the night. Before rowing the skiff back to the dock, she licked the salt off her glasses and found a few square inches of dry t-shirt to dry them off, as she used to do, back when she worked the local boats full-time.
Even though the trip wasn’t what they’d hoped, the Captain was glad to be back on the water, putting her rusty skills once again to task.
They now had a sea story that the whole family could share.