Fall Row 2012: Enter Mr. Mallard

I first saw the craft way off of Bainbridge Island.  It was just a little shape in the distance, but it had the distinct shape of a gaff-rigged sailboat.  As a rower, I’m used to going backwards and watching the world from a different perspective. This was the only small boat I’d seen in hours, and I watched the craft intently.

It was making long tacks back and forth across the sound while I continued to head northward into the wind.  I wondered if it might be going my way.  Although B2 was a quiet and considerate shipmate, he didn’t offer much in the way of conversation.  And while I relished the solitude of rowing, a little camaraderie would certainly make the trip more interesting.  Eventually, I reached my campsite for the night and lost the gaffer someplace to the east.

Come morning, the wind was calm and I set off on my northward course again.  Aside from some harbor porpoises fishing in the glassy waters, nobody else was in sight.  I continued the mind-freeing work of rowing and anticipating my next stop.  Nearing Kingston, I sighted the boat again, this time a half mile or so ahead of me.  Either the guy couldn’t steer very well or he was in a wind hole.

Settling into the familiar rhythm, stroke after stroke, I was soon lost in thought.  I remembered my desire last summer to sail these waters – yet here I was, rowing again, an unfinished sailboat in my driveway. Not that my type of vessel mattered in the long run. Here was this sailboat, making a lot of miles, but not really getting anywhere; and me in a rowboat, moving slowly, but steadily onward.  Eventually, we would end up in the same place.

I suppose that’s a lot like life.  You decide you want something, you work to get there, and in the end you start to wonder if you took the right route.  I think you have to get there in the way that makes the most sense to you.  There’s no right, only choices.

When I came upon the boat, the captain, who I’d learn was named Tim, was contentedly reading a book in the shade of his sail.   “I guess we’re playing tortoise and hare,” I called out, though I wasn’t sure who was who.

We soon determined that we were both heading to the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend.  He seemed content, but uncertain if the winds would propel him there.  After exchanging a few words, we continued on our respective ways.

I watched Tim and his boat, Mr. Mallard, fade away at the whim of the winds. For a moment I felt smug as I left him behind; that feeling was quickly replaced by a sense of kinship for my compatriot of the sea. I hoped he would make it safely to the festival.

As the wind picked up over the next few days, I kept watch for Tim in the distance, but I never saw him.

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