Fall Row 2012: It’s About the People, Stupid

It was almost an hour past slack tide, and I imagined that the current moving through the Port Townsend Channel would be intense, but I got lucky.  I’d experienced other tidal pinch points, and they could flex some serious muscle; however when I finally passed into the calm waters of Port Townsend Bay I found little resistance from the tide.

It was such a relief to be free and clear of the day’s wind and chop that I stopped to indulge myself in some fresh, sliced cantaloupe.  I sat in the boat, carving the melon, watching seals bask in the sun, forgetting that I wasn’t the only craft on the water.  My ear caught the rumble of a motor yacht just as its three-foot wake rumbled through.  I rowed languidly, but purposefully, to escape motor death.

After gulping down the remainder of my snack, I enjoyed some peaceful rowing with a growing cadre of wooden boats heading to the town of Port Townsend.  It was nearly dinner time when I slid alongside Flygburen, Andy’s sailboat.  A small crowd was gathered around the cockpit.

“Boat,” I called from my low perch on the water.  He turned and looked nearly as surprised see me there as I felt to be there, since my last communication with him involved a request for a ride the rest of the way to the festival.  We hastily tied up the Terrapin and headed to dinner.  When offered a beer, I politely declined: my head was rocking enough without additional assistance.

That night I slept on Andy’s boat and reviewed my path to Port Townsend, as well as my decision to come to the festival at all.  To be honest, I’d had to be convinced that it was a good idea.

“It’s too much boat porn,” I groused when Boat suggested that I enter the recently completed Row Bird in the festival.  I’d been there once before as a spectator and thought I knew what it had to offer; still, I queried a few other people to determine the pros and cons.

“So what you’re telling me,” I replied incredulously after one friend’s input, “is that I just sit there in my boat, talking to people about it?”  Ogling pretty boats and bantering with boat geeks for three days wasn’t really a thrilling prospect.  Having to explain repeatedly what kind of wood the boat was made of, the type of paint, and a thousand other details seemed like more than I could tolerate.  I figured having Andy’s boat as a base camp and shield might work and that I could always row away if I got bored.

One day while hanging out in the cockpit, I saw a vaguely familiar looking guy walking down the dock.  I stared intently at him, hoping to recall how or why I knew him.  Our eyes locked and an expression spread across his face showed that he had beat me to the answer.

“Hey, it’s me Tim, from Mr. Mallard,” he proclaimed brightly.  I’d lost sight of him after meeting on the Sound two days earlier.  We soon got into a blow by blow discussion about when he passed me and how he handled the wind and waves. I was tickled that he had arrived safely.

Truth be told, I only rowed away once, and that was just for fun.  I found that by being a part of the show, not just a spectator,  I was completely engrossed.  I went to workshops, got to know people I’d only corresponded with via the internet, shared good food and drink, became wrapped up in drawing, got invited to impromptu rowing or sailing sessions, sang sea shanties, and became so involved in things, that even I was surprised when the final day of the festival dawned.

Before I could depart, I had a few things to wrap up.  B2 had faithfully accompanied me for most of the trip and while he was the strong, silent type, he made it known that he wanted to keep voyaging.  It just so happened that I knew a boat that would soon be leaving for Bellingham.

“So Andy,” I inquired, “you remember my mascot, B2?  He wants to stay afloat and you seem to be moving in the right direction.”  I handed B2 to Andy who smiled and despite having a boat geared towards a single-hander, I think he was genuinely grateful for the company.   I understand they had a great sail home together.  [Check out Andy's new blog.]

My last order of business was to find my new friend Michael who picked me up in a gigantic truck, which I dubbed the Doryman Adventure Mobile.  The thing was so high off the ground, you practically needed a ladder to get into the bed.  Despite having a 20 foot long rowboat already strapped on the rack, it easily accommodated the Terrapin, and all my gear with room to spare. [Help Doryman solve the mystery:  what's holding this boat up?]

We had an animated four hour conversation on our trip home.  Sure we talked some about boats, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.  It made me realize that the festival wasn’t really about boats- it was about people.  And knowing some of them made it so much the better.   I’m pretty confident I’ll be seeing some of those people in Port Townsend next fall and maybe B2 too.

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