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Deep River and a Deflated Dinghy


“Dan, the dinghy deflated!” Karen shouted from the cockpit.

Moments prior I was lying in bed watching clouds pass over the hatch. I was contemplating life’s big questions like, should I get pancakes or eggs for breakfast? And just like that, the air poured from my plan for an otherwise majestic morning.

Throwing a shirt on as I sped out the cabin door, my eyes adjusted to the sun just in time to see my dinghy sinking. My heart plummeted to my stomach when I saw my brand-spanking-new Suzuki outboard half submerged, struggling to stay afloat while the completely deflated port side of the dinghy pulled towards Davy Jones’ locker. A throwable PFD and my Sebago boat shoes floating in the middle of the mess completed the tragic ballad.

“Son of a ---!”

I knew then that breakfast was no longer on the menu.

First priorities first, I had to get the outboard. Karen pulled the dinghy to the boat as I lunged for the handle on the neck of the motor. I pulled it—and the dinghy—up to the stern of the boat with everything I had while Karen reached over and unscrewed the engine from the raft. It took some serious early-morning calisthenics but we got the engine aboard. I would go on to fish my shoes, the throwable, and the dinghy itself from the drink. I didn’t have much of a plan at this point but I knew I wanted to depart Deep River, where we’d been enjoying a couple really relaxing days, and get back to my home turf in Essex.

I dodged a constant deluge of massive logs and branches along the river on my way back to the marina while Karen worked to reflate the dinghy. After a call to my old man, I had a semblance of a plan to try and revive my outboard, which lay lamely at my side. I checked the oil and gas, which both seemed to hold off the brackish offensive. I carefully wiped everything down, dried what I could, and struggled to get the engine to start.

This story would thankfully have a happy ending. I left the engine for a little while as I rowed in to the dock where Karen was waiting. I was close to throwing in the towel at this point.

“Know any good outboard prayers?” I asked, as I turned to give the engine one last college try.
“I’ll try the ones I have.”

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the engine fired up! Before looking up at Karen and jinxing myself, I pulled away from the dock and revved up the engine: She purred like a kitten. I credited the extra drying time for the engine’s resurrection but nevertheless I’m going to light a candle in church next week, you know, just in case.

After the successful test run I would pull the dinghy from the water, saving the leak repair for another day.

Sloshing up to my car in my soaked Sebagos, carrying my outboard in my arms like a wounded comrade, I was plenty pissed about the turn of events. I mean, my morning had gone to hell in a New York minute—the squishing of the soles of my shoes a constant reminder.

Karen and I walked into downtown Essex and got a drink (iced coffee and water of course) and I began to cool off. I saw children in their best red, white, and blue 4th of July attire holding their parents’ hands, couples walking their dogs, and a small crowd moving towards the classic car show that was beginning to assemble at the end of the street.

“There’s still a whole day ahead of us,” Karen reminded me. “And it’s your favorite holiday.”

As per usual she was right. It took some time, and a couple drinks stronger than that iced coffee, but I eventually saw the positive side. My new outboard was still working, we enjoyed a couple days of much-needed R&R in one of our favorite local spots, and after a quick patch we will be ready once again to cruise over the horizon in search of our next adventure.