I was sitting in a truck park someplace between Vantage and George. The wind was howling, and my little wagon train was bucking and jouncing on its springs. I had my last pair of almost-dry socks on. Willie and Waylon were serenading me on a small town country oldies station. I was down to a couple hundred miles from home on a week-long, 850-mile odyssey. Just about everything about this trip had gone wrong, counter to the plan; even the weather man had got just about every prognostication wrong. I had serious mechanical troubles that took a serious time delay and serious cash to remedy. It had rained an inch over the prior record for that day, in a place that is just about the rain capital of the country. The light winds forecast had manifested into a maelstrom against the ebb tide. It was dark, cold, and windy up there on the back side of the Cascade mountains. Unless I wanted to dig wet sails, a clammy sleeping bag, sodden mattress, and whatnot out of Lady Bug's cabin up on that rocking and reeling trailer first; I was gonna' have to settle for the ramen noodles and instant coffee I could lay my hands on, in the van.
Simply put: Life was good!
A small boat event that I had instigated months before had not only come together, it was by most accounts a resounding success.
A total of six boats had attended the first annual Drizzle Cruise in South Puget Sound. We came from far and near, to gather on the rain-slicked state park dock in Jarrell Cove, Harstine Island.
Originally billed as a pocket yacht event, half the boats came on their own bottoms from full-time moorages. The other half came by trailer. What resulted was a marvelous synergy. And, a grand opportunity to meet new folks, and get to know them. Sometimes, huddled under a tarp. Sometimes, not.
Our assemblage spanned boat history, size, and design spreads in the most eclectic fashion imaginable.
James and Tim brought the venerable 1927 motor yacht, "El Mystico" from Shelton.
David and his dog Max were at anchor aboard their full time residence, "Harold," and waiting for the rest of us to arrive.
Tom brought his spiffy Ericson 27, "Reset" the farthest distance (by water) from Gig Harbor.
Dennis showed up with his peripatetic "Scram Pram" from Burnaby, BC.
The Other Tom made the party after a couple attempts to motor from the west central side of the island in a southerly direction to reach the north end. "Loafer" is a Bolger Old Shoe. Donations accepted to help buy Tom a new Boy Scout compass - and maybe a Boy Scout to operate it for him.
And, Dan brought his well-travelled "Lady Bug" from the still-snowy North East corner of the state.
The only boat to brave the breezy conditions in Jarrell Cove during a break in the clouds. "Lady Bug" still knows her stuff, but the skipper was a bit stiffer, and less agile than in years gone by.
We had a delightful campfire the first night in port. Tim demonstrated how a true Scout Master builds and lights a fire. Several times. And, when he finally got a blaze roaring, the 'smores sticks had also disappeared. Stories, tall tales, and outright lies swirled with the smoke until bedtime - and the first patters of rain called an end to the party. After that, it was a night of the "flat cow raining on a pee rock" until well into what should have been sunrise.
This is the view from "Lady Bug's" rather cramped companionway. The poly tarp and plumbing pipe "awning" was more or less an after thought, created in the Lowe's parking lot while leaving Spokane. I'm sooooooo glad I had it. It made what could have been pretty yucky conditions in that little floating fiberglass pup tent into pretty darn comfortable. Well, except for the spurting leak that developed exactly over my ear. What an "interesting" way to wake up at zero-dark-thirty.
Somehow, we idled and chatted our way through Friday and Saturday. The park ranger came by to collect our dock fees and told us about a once-a-year oyster feed at the local grange hall. While, we could probably have hit the place with a well-aimed skipping stone from the pier; the walk was a bit more circuitous. The ensuing meal and gam were well worth both the money price and the walking. The grange hall has been standing on that spot since 1914 - the year World War One began. Now, a hundred years ago. And, I must say the ol' place looks a lot better than most of the rest of us at 100.
Another night of intermittent rain, drizzle, and downright deluge. The Other Tom had already decided it was time to hyakko for home on Saturday. Somewhat true to the modus of this event, he had car trouble on the way from ramp to home-20 and waited much of the day for a tow truck to find and rescue him. We could offer encouragement by phone, but nobody had any way to go meet up with him. He probably should have stayed for the oysters, huh?
The party broke up on Sunday morning to the backdrop of forecasts for heavy rain, gale-force winds against the strong ebb, and otherwise less than satisfactory conditions for sun bathing. Tom and "Reset" had possibly the worst of it. It's a 30-mile point to point run for him in a boat with a flat water speed close to a brisk walk in the park. What he ran into was anything but a walk in the park! With an inflatable dink in tow and rain blowing sideways, he had his bow anchor slip its chocks in the Tacoma Narrows. Gusts blowing above forty had pushed the outgoing tide into quite the confused and breaking stuff that stretch is known for. The bad news is there wasn't anybody there to get pictures of Tom out on a bow alternately diving under water and lurching for the sky, retrieving a Danforth on chain rode before it managed to anchor him just where he would never want to be anchored.
"Reset" went on the hard the next morning for her previously scheduled annual haul out, looking pert and none the worse for wear. The skipper has a tale to relate at our next camp fire, for sure!
Dennis and I had a most-remarkable chain of happenings that same morning. We got to the ramp and hauled out without much untoward stuff. Wet, wet, wet. But, boats float on top, and sailors dry out.
Along comes a gent with an unfinished nine-foot Minto in tow. My own "Limerick" is a 1976 version of this iconic faux clinker dinghy cum pocket Whitehall. There we were standing in the rain (a' la', "Only mad dogs and Englishmen stand in the mid-day sun.") talking about boats and getting wetter by the rain drop. Kurt the Minto Man pointed out that he had been looking for us. He had seen the Scram Pram pass on the highway the previous Friday when we came up from Olympia. He found us, by way of this or that forum or website and then made a point of laying a converging course. Wow, huh?
It took very little to convince all hands that there are better places for a gam than a very-rainy launch ramp parking lot. Kurt knew about a roadside bar 'n grill someplace between Harstine bridge and Shelton. And, after breakfast, we followed him through the muck and flotsam about another 30 miles to his shop in Olympia. And, that was well worth the trip!
In more or less continuous production since 1965, the little Minto dinghy is now in the capable hands of her fifth artisan. Kurt also repairs big boats and builds the more eclectic craft in this sawdust palace. What a grand place to turn trees and polyester into works of art, huh?
About then, Tom would be entering the Narrows. James and Tim would be putting "El Mystico" to bed in her boathouse at the head of Hammersly Inlet in Shelton, the Other Tom would be fixing his car, David and Max would be re-anchoring "Harold' in her accustomed spot near Shelton. Dennis was on his way home to Vancouver, BC.
Yours truly had a windy and wet climb over the pass and on home to Diamond Lake, here in Almostcanada. Time to park "Lady Bug" for a while and get the next boat ready for the next event.
Life is good!