Gone Coastal (Part VII)
As soon as we set anchor the boat settles as if the keel was set firmly in bedrock. The sun warms the decks and all manner of clouds dissipate. To the northwest the whipped sea is merely a dark ribbon of contrast below the gray sky.
The dinghy, which for the past two days hung flaccidly from the stern, suddenly becomes an object of serious attention. It is wrestled to the deck by the Coffeebean Brothers, Margarete the engineer and Elenore. The older Bean brother, Michael, is marking a milestone birthday and a trip ashore will ensure a proper celebration. As they lay the craft on deck the younger of the Beans glances over his shoulder as if he expects the coast to disappear. Four mates toil, the men stripping off fleece a layer at a time. Taking turns on a foot pump they work feverishly to revive the boat. Although the resuscitation attempt is intense, the launch refuses the inflation. Soon the entire crew has circled the craft with hands hanging slack at their sides. The little boat is a goner. There’s nothing anyone can do but stand silent and regard its passing. Finally someone asks, “Is there a water taxi? A shoreboat?”
You see, our voyage is dry.
“Shoreboat, shoreboat, shoreboat…”is hailed on the VHF radio. Cell phones are whipped out. Cruising guides are consulted until it is determined there is no water taxi service offered weekdays after Labor Day. Young Miguel eyes the amusement park and suggests swimming ashore. It is a good quarter mile to the beach and the skipper warns us all the 62 degree water is unsafe for such a swim before retiring to his cabin. The dinghy, confirmed to be useless by Margarete, is hoisted to dangle impotently behind the traveler. Disheartened men take to their bunks to dream of the wonders that lie just ashore.
Below, the cook is rooting through the bilge. “Watch your step”, he warns as I bound down the companionway. I pass through the boat to my berth where I meet Margarete who has fetched a brush and bottle of soap from the forepeak. Yearning for a break from sleeping, eating and standing watch, I offer to help with what I soon learn is her task of washing the deck. “If we both scrub we will finish in half the time,” I say gleefully. She smiles back as she grabs a broom, but I can tell she wonders why I am so buoyant about scrubbing. “I am all pent up with only sitting and laying around,” I offer.
“Oh, your body works plenty hard just keeping your balance on a trip like this. Brush across the grain,” she instructs as she dabbles out a few drops of soap, “You won’t rip out the soft wood going across the grain. The decks are old and worn pretty thin. Don’t get carried away.”
I begin to carefully scrub, following her as she sprays the deck then drips soap onto the wet planks. We chat as we work. Soon she joins the scrubbing using the broom. She looks practiced and switches between broom and hose, broom and hose. She sprays away foam, bushes and sprays until we finish all 92 feet.
“What else needs done?” I ask, my arms glistening with sweat.
“That’s it. Come on. I have something for you.”
I follow her to her berth. The cook is just closing the bilge. Margarete slowly pulls the curtain behind us then touches her forefinger to her lips. She reaches into her berth. Spencer is with us, asleep in the small compartment. “Don’t tell anyone!” she whispers as she reaches toward me with a loosely closed fist then waits for me to extend my hand. Her finger goes to her lips again to shush me as she drops a small golden square into my palm.
Chocolate! Milk chocolate! Good, Swiss chocolate! We smile at each other, quietly unwrap our treasure, pop them into our mouths and roll our eyes toward heaven in thanks.
Spencer snores and we smile. Our teeth are streaked brown.