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Off the Chart

An experienced boater mucks up a fancy meal.

I’ve been fascinated with charts since I was a youngster. When I look at one I see adventure, places where no one else goes. So it’s all the more surprising that I spent one evening in Blue Hill, Maine, a victim to the tide.

Illustration by Gil Adams

After having eaten aboard for a few nights, my wife, Brenda, and I decided to dine in town. We dressed nicely, hopped into our dinghy, and headed for the town dock. (I couldn’t understand why everyone else went to the yacht club, then walked to town.) Things started well but after a few minutes the outboard bounced, then bounced again. I looked over the side to see that we were in six inches of water. 

“No worries,” I said. “I’ll row us to shore.” I gallantly took the oars, Brenda sitting adoringly aft and enjoying the solitude. Alas, it didn’t last. Soon there wasn’t enough water to row, and now a choice had to be made. My father’s words about chivalry kicked in, and I slipped over the side and began towing the dinghy by its painter. 

All was fine until the last hundred yards when the sandy bottom gave way to Maine’s best black mud. The water got even thinner—I was now dragging, not towing the dinghy. Finally I asked my wife, “Would it be okay if you got in the water with me?”

That was a bad moment. Was it the dinghy I was no longer capable of hauling or the woman? Well, the deed was done. 

Upon reaching the dock we discussed whether to actually go to dinner. We were both dressed for it but our stinky feet would not be welcome. Brenda suggested hot dogs back onboard. “I don’t think so,” I said. After what I’d been through there was no way I was headed back across the mud flats to consume mystery meat.

Instead we found a garden hose and rinsed off. Eventually we had a fabulous meal, and when it was done, found a tide table—we were still three hours away from navigable water! 

After a few glasses of wine, we decided the trip back might be even more fun. Rain had begun to fall, but off we set, I on the painter, feet squishing in the black mud and Brenda sitting dry and demure in the back of the dinghy with her umbrella deployed. How I wished I’d had my camera!

Back onboard and merrily reflecting on our night on the town, I realized how much we’d enjoyed our little adventure. Each time I think about that evening it makes me smile. I’d do it again but I definitely won’t read the chart before heading out. That would take all the fun out of it.

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.