Anarchistic musings from a SE Alaska harbor
By Ed Sasser

Soaking in Borrowed Time 

Eddy’s Chuck,* Alaska: Brent and Sheila have been living on borrowed time since I met them: The 63 foot converted steel work tug, "Borrowed Time."

The trouble was they couldn't leave the transient dock without losing their moorage. If they left in Borrowed Time and another boat came in, they would lose phone and electrical hookups if they couldn’t get back to the same spot right away. They borrowed a boat when they wanted to get underway to fish or sail. Finding that to be too much of an impingement to their chosen cruising lifestyle, they chose to untie the springlines last month. They wanted to spend three months anchoring out while on a slow trip to Ketchikan where Sheila’s teaching job would start with the new semester.

During the send-off party, we all sequentially realized something that soon cast a pall over the festivities. Theirs was the only hot tub in the harbor: What were we to do now? None of the other boats were currently configured properly to accommodate a hot tub.

Desperation turned to speculation and finally to a partial enthusiasm. Larry and Stan suggested a floating tub that we could take turns using. It could move from boat to boat and one of us could register it with the harbormaster as the ship’s tender. Eyes rolled. There was moaning and gnashing of teeth. But Stan and Larry were drawing out the concept on the back of an old salmon landing report using a carpenters pencil Larry always carried in his overalls.

"OK with us you don’t want to do a co-op kinda deal," Larry exclaimed, laughing off the good natured derision. "We’ll just rent it out to ya." We all went back to our beers.

I didn’t think much of it ‘til the next morning when Stan rang my bow bell with his boat pole and asked to borrow my circular saw, and my drill, and some carriage bolts and did I have one of those things that fit in the drill but really sawed a big round hole.

Looking up at the dock I couldn’t believe what I saw. "Mainland lumber?" I asked Stan. "Where on earth did you get milled mainland lumber." Most everything on the island was done in rough-cut lumber from Bob Clancy’s saw mill and here was more than a sling of cedar 2X6s challenging the leaf springs of Stan's pick-up.

"Fell off a barge," was all Larry could say as he hefted another three sticks down the ramp. Of course this was the second lowest tide of the year so they were lugging the entire materials list for their rent-a-tub an extra 23 vertical feet each trip.

"You sure you don’t want to wait for the minus 4.9 next month?" I asked them. Stan caught on and winked but Larry said this couldn’t wait.

They told me I could use their rent-a-tub for free in exchange for the loan of the tools. Seemed like a bargain to me to just have them out of my hair for a week.

The project didn’t come up in conversation on my boat ‘til several days later when I needed to borrow my drill back so I could mount my new EPIRB. I started toward Stan’s barrel boat, figuring Larry would be around there someplace with my tools. On the way, I heard a small outboard laboring and looked up to see what was going on. There came four naked bodies in a more-or-less partially stabilized, neutrally-buoyant, full-displacement, floating hot tub with a wood-fired stove bellowing like a steam engine.

My first thought was: "They have customers-they are actually renting this thing out." As the tub got closer to Stan’s boat and the driver began tying up, I recognized both the clothed driver and the naked soakers as harbor residents-either liveaboards or visiting cruisers, Noodlers all.

Larry and Stan came out of Stan’s boat beaming like new fathers. "Take a turn; it’s free to you," Stan offered the painter. I more-or-less averted my eyes as the mixed soakers wrapped in towels, then stayed to chat with them. One of them had provided the stove, another some fittings, another the outboard. They had all contributed something and hadn’t paid any rent. Turns out upwards of 20 people had some sort of investment in the "tender" and were exempt from rent. In fact I couldn’t think of anyone left in or anywhere around the harbor who would likely be a regular paying customer.

I took the painter and called across the harbor for my better half to join me in a soak. While I waited, Larry broke out a can of paint and a brush to give the tender its name: "Borrowed Time II".

Guess it turned out to be a "co-op kinda deal" after all.

(*Eddy’s Chuck, Alaska is a fictitious place populated by real Alaskan Noodlers.)

Copyright 1999-2000 by Ed Sasser. All rights reserved.


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