The Boat: Part 4.

Henri got a hammer and was just starting to work on taking off the frame when the coast guard pulled up and said they would tow the boat into the water, but only right then. Henri called to me to climb into the boat. He and I scrambled up into the boat and pulled Connie up and took the line that the coast guard threw to us and attached it to the rear of the boat. There was a loud churning of propellers and some crunching of the keel against the trailer, but little movement. Henri yelled at me to start breaking away the frame. He was madly hacking away at his side with his hammer yelling to the coast guard to keep pulling. I had no hammer, so I jumped over the side of the boat, holding on to the rail, and started kicking at the 2x4s that were holding the boat to the trailer. Henri got a few boards loose, as did I. We moved slightly. The frame was weakening and twisting which made it easier to kick more boards loose. The crunching of the keel against the trailer meant movement. Suddenly the frame on my side gave way. I had been a pole-vaulter in high school, and I used my best form to vault myself over the rail and into the boat as the rail and boat started tipping over toward me. With a huge WHACK, the side of the boat hit the water, lifting the keel off the trailer and we slid, sideways into the ocean. We lurched back upright, then the boat settled peacefully in the water. Boats know how to behave in water. Peace, gentle peace. We unhooked the line from the coast guard and without looking at us, they drove away as if to say “We were never here, we know nothing about anything that happened here.”
On shore, Jack and the others were celebrating, but were also faced with a ramp and ocean full of debris, a submerged mangled trailer, with a locked parking lot gate, which didn’t matter because the truck with the trailer hitch was long gone. On the boat, I was feeling an incredible sense of relief when Henri came over to me and said he had a confession. “Newell, I have never sailed, I know nothing about boats; you’re the captain.”
There actually wasn’t that much to do. We had made ten-foot oars out of 2×4’s and plywood, with rope loops for oarlocks, so Henri and I started to row. It was about a half mile to get out of the breakwater and around the pier to where the visiting boats set anchor. It took us over two hours to make the trip. But it was peaceful and we had a real sense of accomplishment that gave us strength in rowing this rather bulky rowboat. But it floated, and didn’t leak. The Channel Islands, about twenty miles off shore, give some protection for the Santa Barbara beaches, so the ocean was calm. We found a spot not too close to other boats, dropped anchor, put the dinghy in the water and rowed to the ladder on the side of the pier. We tied up the dinghy and climbed the ladder, like any of the other yacht people in the harbor, and we began our tradition of going into the Moby Dick restaurant and having a cup of hot chocolate after our adventures at sea.
I never saw Jack again, or the owner of the truck. But I think our setting anchor, tying up the dinghy, climbing the ladder and having hot chocolate at the Moby Dick was the dream we had all been working toward and we did it, for them as well as for us. Throughout the summer, they could see the boat anchored off shore and could feel the pride in knowing that they had been responsible for returning this beached hull to its natural habitat.

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About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
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