The Boat Is Ours!

Bunky at One Tree Marina in Olympia, WA27-Aug-2005: We’ve been handed the keys. The diesel engine is fired up and the previous owner and I drive the boat from the Olympia Yacht Club over to the One Tree Island Marina, across the narrow channel, and dock it where Sam Devlin, the builder, has his boats moored. We opt to moor the boat in Olympia until a covered slip becomes available in Des Moines, 5 miles from our house. We incorrectly assume that being way down here at the southern end of Puget Sound means the marine environment is more of a backwater and less demanding. Wrong! It’s exactly the opposite. The tidal swings are the most extreme down here.

Sam walks us through the pre-float checklist and then takes us out into the Olympia harbor for some training. The maiden voyage is both exciting and a little nerve wracking. First off, Olympia is a true working harbor with loads of pleasure boats, container ships, Police boats plus current, tides, shoals and wind. Sam has me practice docking right in the middle of all this and when I question his motives, he says, very good naturedly, that he’s purposely putting me under some pressure. Ok. So be it. After years of riding motorcycles up to speeds of 130 MPH at the race track, I’m mildly amused, yet cautious. Traveling at 3 knots is very manageable even if the boat has no brakes and is about as responsive to the steering wheel as an early 70s Cadillac. After a couple of practice dockings, he says I’ve got good instincts and that I don’t panic. Ok but I sure don’t feel confident. Knowing how I really like to look competent, I’ll be practicing extensively. And then Inga wants me to train her. Gulp!

Sam does impart some of his philosophy about boating and as he does, we smile and nod knowingly since it is exactly what we were hoping to find in this little boat of ours. He views a boat as a special space, a sanctuary from every day life. Sam talks about the methodical approach required for the proper maintenance and operation of a boat, how its routines take time and how they are part of the experience. He advises us to avoid a casual, or rushed, approach to the boat and recommends developing a Zen around it.

We let Sam off at the dock and then we practice some more. At one point, I’ve eased up perfectly to a dock but then, for some inexplicable reason, I can’t get the boat away from the dock for love nor money. Being the land lubbers that we are, we finally realize, after putting a few good scratches in the nice green hull paint, that the wind is holding us against the dock. Doh!

Inga and I debrief after this stressful event and we come to realize just how intimidated we are with our newly purchased boat. If it were an aluminum fishing boat or a used runabout, we wouldn’t be jumpy at all. But with this pristine, lovingly cared for, pilot house cruiser, it’s a whole different story. Once we realize why we are so bloody nervous, we calm down and start enjoying ourselves. Somewhat.

Tug in Budd Inlet28-Aug-2005: Today, we never leave the dock. We just hang out in the marina on the boat and by the end of the day, we are both amazed at how relaxed we are. Sam shows up at the marina, jumps into one of his boats and as he’s motoring past us, he asks if we’ve been out yet today. ‘Nope’, we reply. ‘We’re working on that Zen thing.’ He smiles. We really are enjoying getting to know the boat and figuring out how things work and where to store stuff. Every inch of the cabin has been designed for maximum use and is very well thought out. Unlike Sam’s larger designs that are more cabin-like in their amenities, the 22′ Surf Scoter is more akin to a small truck camper or a sailboat. Inga remarks that it’s like spending time in a really cool treehouse. The two year old daughter of a neighbor in a sailboat on our dock refers to Bunky as the “caboose boat”.

We’re scheduled for a day long Power Squadron boating safety course this coming Saturday. The Power Squadron is a national, “non profit, educational organization dedicated to making boating safer and more enjoyable by teaching classes in seamanship, navigation and related subjects”. We figure that with some more knowledge under our belt, we’ll feel comfortable enough to make a diesel fuel run. The nearest fueling station is where the inlet we are in reaches the Sound, 5.5 nautical miles downstream, through all the complexity of the Olympia harbor.

Meanwhile, we walk down to the end of our dock where we have an unobstructed view of the Olympia harbor because we’ve heard there are going to be tugboat races. Sure enough, there are a bunch of them docked at Percival Landing and here they come, one by one, as they head North up Budd Inlet out past the no wake zone. Inga, Freya and I sit down and watch this delightful parade float past our vantage point. As we marvel at the beauty and style of each of these hard working boats, I remark that even though we’ve lived here since 1987, the full extent of the Puget Sound maritime culture never really occurred to me until now. Inga shoots me one of those “No shit, Sherlock!” looks. Nevertheless, take a look at my slideshow below. — Scott Bruce Duncan */:-)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Leave a Reply