Gentle Humor

I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Category: Vacations (Page 1 of 2)

Beaten by Waves Like Gerard Butler

I saw Gerard Butler on the Daily Show last night. My, my, my he is one fine specimen. He was promoting his surfing movie, “Chasing Mavericks,” and they showed a clip with this giant wave rolled over him – it was thirty feet high and looked like a tsunami. When John Stewart asked him about it he said, “Yeah, it was really scary – I looked up and saw this thing and then it rolled over me, and another one was right behind it. I finally got up to the top for air and here was another one…”

Spoiler alert: He survived but only after someone on a ski doo got to him and hauled him out. The movie’s insurance company said, “You inexplicable idiot. No more. You use a stunt double from here on out!” Butler didn’t say those exact words, but I imagine this is about what the insurance said to him.

The purpose of this blog, however, is to tell about MY experience, which was quite similar to Butler’s except the waves were higher. Or at least they seemed to be. We were in Maui at this “locals only” beach full of surfers and their families, along with the odd pale tourist.

The waves were easily ten feet high, which is no sissy wave, especially when you think of most waves being three or four feet. It’s daunting when one is coming right at you. You see nothing but a wall of water and then, if you don’t have enough sense to dive under it, you get pounded like tough meat in a butcher’s shop.

When you dive under, you feel the wave rolling over the top of you, from your head to your toes, like one of those chairs that massages your back when you get a pedicure. It would be pleasant if it weren’t so utterly frightening.

Once the wave rolls over you, and you come up for air, you open your eyes and see another ten-foot wall of water. It’s right there. If you’re lucky you gulp a breath of air and dive down to the ocean floor and feel the wave rumble over you again. You come back up, thinking that these crazy back-to-back giant waves are just a fluke,  and another wall of water is right there, big as life and twice as ugly.

I was hoping to get the hang of it after about twenty of these, but I didn’t. I was worn out and started swimming back toward shore, which was about fifty feet away. When I got out of range of the giant waves crashing on me, I got sucked up by an undertow. It started sweeping me sideways like I was a cork in river rapids. I tried to remember the rules of undertows from my lifeguard days, “Don’t swim against the undertow, swim parallel to shore but consistently try to make your way toward shore in a diagonal fashion.”

As the water continued to drag me sideways and out to sea, I started to panic, which the Lifesaving book said not to do under any circumstances or you’ll drown for sure. There was a lifeguard on the beach looking all official and worthy, and he simply watched me sweep by, apparently thinking I had the situation under control because I didn’t have enough wind to yell for help. Luckily, I turned and saw a head behind me being swept along at my exact rate of speed, and we went racing through the water like this for a good ways, making a parallel and somewhat diagonal course toward shore. Just seeing the other head bobbing along made me feel less anxious, and I was able to relax and really experience how exhausted and close to drowning I was. Then my toe brushed against a rock and I realized I had the possibility of getting dragged over jagged rocks as well.

But (spoiler alert 2) I survived it. It was one of the rare times I’ve been really afraid in the water. I have a whole new respect for waves and the ocean, and for Gerard Butler. I’m going to see the movie just so he and I can commiserate together in my mind.

Su-then Hospitality

Speaking of Tennessee and being Su-then – that is a whole ‘nother world down there in Dixie. The things they do are amusing at every turn. The Cracker Barrel is an example.

After my lengthy flight from Portland, OR to Knoxville, TN (the closest airport to Kingsport that I could use with my airline miles), and renting a car for the last leg of the trip, I was starving to death and didn’t want fast food – I wanted collard greens and fried okra and black eyed peas and corn bread and other such Su-then fare. I wanted Cracker Barrel. I called my family and my Uncle Martin gave me the names of three exits with Cracker Barrels between Knoxville and Kingsport, an hour and a half drive away.

I parked the rental, mouth watering, and stepped up on the long porch of this mecca of southern cuisine. I passed all those wooden rocking chairs and for a second I was tempted to sit a spell, but figured I’d better get my name in because it was Saturday evening and the place was packed.

After a small wait in which I browsed the country store and thought about how good it was to be back in the South, a sweet girl with a cherub face seated me at a little table in the middle of the action. Waiters and waitresses zipped from table to table and said things like, “Hello, darlin’. Can I git you something to drink, sugar?” It was like that through the whole meal. I couldn’t take two bites without someone asking if they could get me some more water, “honey,” and if I was enjoying my food, or “Sweetie, can I refill that tea for you?”

When I went to the cash register to pay, an ancient woman with more wrinkles than a wadded up linen shirt was behind the register. I mentally stereotyped her, no doubt slow and fumbling, as she handed the change to the couple in front of me. When I stepped up to pay she briskly took my money and started ringing me up. “Sweetheart, did you have a good supper?” she said. “Can I interest you in some of this hand lotion? It smells so sweet. Oh and you really ought to try these caramels – they just melt in your mouth!” Not only was she quick, she wasn’t taking “no” for an answer until she up-sold me something from the gift shop.

With the drive ahead of me, it was going to be late when I arrived at my Aunt Mary Ellen’s house, and it was already way past dark, but I eased down into one of the wooden rocking chairs on the front porch and felt myself rock back and forth like the pendulum in a grandfather clock, listening to the soothing sound of wood rolling over wood, remembering the taste of that good southern food, the smell of the fresh-baked cornbread, and the sounds of families exchanging stories all around me as they visited at the Cracker Barrel on a Saturday evening. I mentally willed myself to slow down to Tennessee time.

I’d come back “home” to take a little break from life and get centered – and as I sat there rocking, I knew it was going to be a perfect trip. A couple walked slowly out of the restaurant, holding hands. He grinned at me and said, “How y’all doin?” There are no strangers in Tennessee – but there are some strange people. I’ll tell you about one of them next time.

I went to Tennessee a couple of weeks ago to get some fried okra and brush up on being Southern. Or as Atley, my son Chris’s friend, would say, “Su-then.” He’d make jokes about my accent, saying, “Chris, your mom’s Su-then,” putting an emphasis on the “Su-” part to bring out the accent. It got laughs from everyone, so I went along. When I’d say something like, “Atley, can you pick up your glass and take it to the kitchen?” he’d say, “Suzanne, you Su-then.” Maybe you had to be there to truly appreciate it, but now in my head the word is no longer “Southern” but “Su-then.”

Anyway, on one of the layovers in the airport (no one flies to Tennessee from anywhere in the US without laying over in Chicago or Dallas or both), I decided to write out my top most fun times, and was kindof surprised at the things I wrote down.

They weren’t the times when I went to expensive dinners or to fancy plays or even tropical vacations. They were just regular times with one thing in common. I was with someone and we got the giggles until everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, became funny and we burst out laughing over and over again at absolutely nothing.

I’ll give you a for instance. After high school I dated this guy who was pretty funny – I called him Bangum, a Su-then pronunciation of his name. He had a great bunch of friends who fortunately became my friends, and once when Bangum was out of town, his friend, Adrian Ferguson, asked if I wanted to go see a horror movie at the drive in. This was about the extent of our entertainment options back in the day in Kingsport, Tennessee – going to some B-movie at the drive-in.

The movie was so bad that we could predict every plot point coming way before it happened. It was the kind of movie anyone with any taste would have left after the first few minutes, but Adrian kept making sarcastic remarks about everything and I got the giggles. This prompted his humor to seek loftier heights, and he kept firing funny comments, each one more ludicrous than the last, until I was begging him to stop so I could catch my breath.

He wouldn’t stop. He had a captive audience, and there was plenty of material  on that giant outdoor screen. I can’t remember the plot, seems like it was about an illusionist who was so good that he could actually saw a woman in half – blood squirting out in all directions – and the audience only saw the box with the lady’s smiling head on one end and her wiggling feet on the other. Of course we, the moviegoers, could see the poor sawed lady screaming and guts and blood everywhere.

There was something in the movie about hitting a woman with a rubber hose. It was supposed to be horrible, but the whole concept of someone attacking a woman with a rubber hose sent us both into hysterics. Here’s the scene in our car.

Adrian: “You’d better behave, woman, or I’ll beat you with a rubber hose!”

Me: “Ha ha ha, oh please stop, don’t say rubber hose again, ha, ha, ha, no, no, no don’t I can’t take it anymore, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Where’s the bathroom – stop or I won’t make it, ha, ha, ha, please, you have GOT to stop.”

Adrian: “I’m going to beat you with a rubber hose.”

Me: “HA, HA, HA, oh please, please, please stop, HA HA HA HA HA oh my gosh I can’t breathe, stop, don’t say anything for a couple of seconds, let me catch my breath, ha ha ha.”

Adrian: “I’ll beat you with a rubber hose.”

I don’t’ know if I made it to the bathroom in time. I don’t know if we even stayed to the end of that dreadful movie. All I know is that I laughed longer and harder and with such complete abandon that I didn’t even feel like I was part of the world anymore.

That’s the great thing about going back to your hometown – I got to see Adrian and Bangum during my visit, along with a myriad of other friends and family – and we relived lots of fun times with fresh laughter.

I don’t care what Atley says, I’m darned happy to be Su-then.

Floating in an Italian Alley

My daughter and I went to Europe a couple of years ago. We had a fantastic time, mostly because my daughter’s red hair attracted special favors and kindnesses like moths to honey. Even in France, with it’s reputation for impatience with American tourists, we were treated well. The waiters were smitten by her. One flirted openly, gave her his phone number, and asked if he could come to America to see her – all before the French onion soup arrived.

The most memorable experience, however, was in Italy. Italian men practically shoved themselves at her. Unlike in France where people on the streets were zipping around and not as inclined to notice us, the Italian men leisurely gawked at us when we walked by. Sometimes we’d be in those cobbled alleyways with only a few people around, and the waiters would be standing outside smoking. All Italian waiters smoke. When they’d see us coming from far away, they stared the whole time we walked toward them, looking us up and down openly and unabashedly as we passed.

I’d like to take a second to look up the word “unabashedly” because by anyone’s standards that’s a doozie. Doozie is another word I’d like to look up. Either of these would be well worth a side trip to Google, but I’d like to get on with my story so they will have to wait.

When the men eyeballed us (and by “us” I mean my daughter), I’d say under my breath, “Don’t look at them. I don’t want them following us around like stray dogs.”

Italian men are a delicious feast for the eyes. Nummy. But I’d read in the touristy books that it was not a good idea to encourage them. The books warned of men grabbing women’s bottoms in public. I don’t know if I would have been overly offended if my bottom, personally, was the destination of some wandering Italian hand, but I sure didn’t want one of these guys groping my teenage daughter.

So we both kept our eyes facing forward and picked up our pace when we’d see the smoking Italians leaning against the outside café walls, drinking us in like we were Chianti.

Once, however, we were walking down an alley in the sultry, dusky evening, and a young Italian man was walking toward us. He had on a long-sleeve white shirt with the cuffs rolled up, and long, dark pants that swished as he walked. He was tall and exceedingly good-looking, and he had not taken his eyes off of us the entire time he glided toward us. As usual I whispered, “Just stare straight ahead.”

He smiled brightly when he was about twenty feet away, and my daughter must have smiled back because he stopped, and in that exaggerated way you see Italian men act in movies, he grabbed his heart with both hands, tossed his gorgeous head back and said to the heavens, “Ahhhh, she smile at me! She breakin’ my heart!”

We both giggled and said, “Buon giorno.” He stood still and watched us walk by, still clutching his heart, grinning with luminescent white teeth. He made us feel like we were beautiful and exotic and like we were eye candy right back at him.

One day when I’m in a nursing home drooling Cream of Wheat, I hope I still remember this man and his flamboyant compliment to two worn out American tourists tromping down an alley on exhausted legs after another hot, humid day of roaming around Rome trying to snatch every sight in three breathless days, and how he suddenly made us feel like we were walking on air.

Key West’s Moons

I wrote yesterday about how bad our priest sang and last night I didn’t sleep a wink I felt so guilty. Tonight I went to a school meeting, and afterward one of the moms came up to me and said, “I saw you sitting way across from me at church on Sunday. Did you see me gasp when the priest started singing?”

“Oh my gosh,” I said, “Can you believe his voice?”

“It’s horrible,” she said. “I literally gasped out loud, and I know I had a look of horror on my face. Then I saw you across the church and you were laughing and trying to cover it up.”

“His voice is shocking,” I said. We commiserated a few minutes more about the torture of hearing such a well-spoken man sing like a rooster with his leg being gnawed by an iguana.

I still feel a little guilty talking about him, but on the other hand, this now appears to be common knowledge and therefore is simply an observation and should not carry with it a stigma of guilt. That’s my theory anyway.

Not to change the subject, but I went to an open house yesterday afternoon and met a nice, older lady who retired to Naples, Florida. Talking to her reminded me of when I was 19 and spent the summer with two girlfriends near there, in Ft. Myers Beach.

One of them, Mary, and I decided to drive to Key West in her little ancient Opal Cadet – a perky little car with a lawn mower for an engine. We were on a backroad out in the middle of nowhere when we came upon a pickup truck carrying three hooligans. They stood up in the truck, which was going pretty slow, and started making obscene gestures. We slowed down, but they were creeping along and we would have had to stop cold for them to get out of sight.

We saw them give each other a look and pretty soon all three of them had dropped their shorts and started mooning us at practically point blank range. We had nowhere else to look! We slowed down almost to a stop, but so did the truck.

“Get us out of here, Mary,” I screamed.

“I didn’t drive all the way down here to have to stare at three hairy assholes,” Mary said. She downshifted that little Opal into second and started to pass. They sped up. She shifted into third and we started making headway. It was a straight, narrow road and we would have been doomed if someone had been in the other lane, but I don’t think Mary would have slowed down. Her face was red and her knuckles were white on the steering wheel. She had an East Tennessee hillbilly anger that was boiling like a whistling teakettle.

I started rocking back and forth to help the car’s momentum, coaxing it to go faster. When we were neck and neck with the driver, he turned and gave us a grin that showed all eleven of his stained yellow teeth. These were the kind of guys who’d run you into the ditch and laugh as they deflowered your maidenhood.

“Give it some more gas,” I screamed.

“I’ve got it on the floor,” she yelled. I rocked harder. We finally got far enough ahead that we could pull in front of the truck. Simultaneously we threw our hands out the window and let our fingers do the talking.

They didn’t like that and started gaining on us. I rocked faster. Mary started rocking too. “Come on, baby, come on,” we begged.

The chase only lasted a couple more minutes before the farm boys gave up.

What does this have to do with the singing priest? If you figure it out, please let me know.

Where’s Your Paradise?

I’m thinking the key to life is loving where you are. Where I am, or soon will be, is in the kitchen getting a fistful of chocolate cherry trail mix. Be right back.

It’s gone! I searched everywhere – in the cabinets, on the nightstand, in the bonus room, but it’s disappeared. Doggone it! Thank goodness I found a Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate bar the size of a greeting card that hit the spot. No, I didn’t eat it all, I left a couple of squares to the previous owner so they’d know they hadn’t imagined putting it in the cupboard. After all, I’m a considerate person.

Back to paradise. We were visiting friends over in Central Oregon and the sun was shining the whole time with nary a cloud in the sky. It’s hard to complain about warm sunshine after living in Portland during the incredibly cool summer we’re having (to find out why – SHAMELESS PLUG – get the global warming book I helped write called, Footprint, a Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Extinction).

One morning we came out of the dark bedroom to be greeted by glowing sunlight through every window, and our host said, “Another day in paradise!”

Didn’t Jimmy Buffet sing a song about that? Somebody did. Anyway, I got to thinking about it and I concluded **** PROFOUND SAYING ALERT***** that:

PARADISE IS WHERE THE HEART IS

This might sound a whole lot like another saying, “Home is where the heart is,” but that one isn’t centered on the page and in all capital letters. I wonder if I can copyright this saying and get royalties when the world starts using it? Because, you know, paradise is sometimes where the money is, too.

Clear skies and warm sunshine might certainly be part of the formula for paradise, but I’ve had a taste of paradise when I’ve been on the side of Mt. Bachelor in the freezing cold and hit a bump on my skies that should have sent me flailing end over end but I miraculously recovered and flew weightless through the air without breaking a leg. It’s exhilarating.

Something else to ponder: Isn’t the world confusing enough without spelling skies and skies the same way? 

I’ve also been in paradise when my teenage daughter asks me to go to a movie with her. OMG I will drop anything to spend time with either of my kids because they are scattered like my Uncle Vance’s ashes in the trunk of my cousin Nancy’s car. That’s a funny story I’ll try to remember to tell one day.

My kids rarely light near me any longer than it takes them to say, “Mom, you already asked me that.” I’m not so sure I DID ask, and I certainly don’t remember what they said. They make stuff up to drive me crazy. Even so, I love when they’ll forsake their friends and hang out with me, even when I know it’s because none of their friends can do anything right that minute and also I’ll pay for their movie ticket. Still, to me it’s more of a “paradise” to hang out with them than being in the tropics sipping POG and vodka while swinging in a hammock on the beach. I think.

The point is that paradise is in our heads. If it weren’t, then everyone in warm places would be happy, and everyone else would be miserable. That may pan out in some cases, but I have witnessed many, many cranky shop clerks in those little beach stores in Lahaina. In fact, there are few things crankier than a middle-aged Hawaiian woman in a t-shirt shop packed with tourists unfolding the merchandise during the heat of the Maui summer. I’ve heard them mumble, “I got your paradise RIGHT HERE!” and though I’m not sure what that means, they didn’t sound happy.

So, gentle readers, you probably don’t need to look any further than your own back yard for your little patch of paradise. And if you find some money out there, send me some!

A Naturally Happy Day

Yesterday I had a naturally happy day. By natural I mean a day that was happy on its own merit and not one I have to cajole myself into believing was happy.

I’ll give you an example. When it’s raining and cold and I’m freezing to my bones I can say, “At least I’m cozy inside and not out in a leaky tent with no bathroom.”

Or I can say, “I’ve got a sore tooth but I at least I have teeth, unlike my cousin in Tennessee who drank Coca-Cola out of a baby bottle.”

These things are designed to make me feel better. If I imagine myself in more pitiful circumstances, then I’ll feel better and can even give my situation a “silver-lining” up a couple of notches on the happiness scale.

This method of happiness works, but every now and then things go so well I’m not forced to look at the miserable side of life to get pumped up, and yesterday was one of those.

First, I found a swimsuit that doesn’t make me look fatter than I am, and it was ON SALE! Next, I found a couple of tops that don’t make me look fatter than I am, and they were ON SALE too!

This in itself would have been enough to make for a pretty stellar day, but I also went hiking in a wilderness area at the base of Three Finger Jack, a central Oregon mountain with jagged peaks that look way more like a bunch of jagged peaks than three fingers. I’ve seen that mountain from every angle and still can’t find the fingers, but this did not make me unhappy because it was gorgeous up there, with snow-fed streams and wildflowers blooming in every direction. We hiked for four hours, which wore me out and therefore must have burned a lot of calories. Lucky for me because I had a bag of chocolate cherry trail mix that geniuses invented. They stuck some peanuts in there to make it an “official” trail mix food, but for the most part it was chocolate and more chocolate. Could a wilderness hike be any better?

Then I dozed all the way home while my husband drove which was great because I was unconscious as he passed extra-long RV’s on curves, and risked our lives in other creative ways that usually give me a heart attack.

But the real happiness came when I got home and read my emails. Not only did I have several new site members (thanks and welcome!), but also the book I helped to write about global warming got an endorsement from James E. Hansen, the world’s foremost authority on global warming. HOW EXCITING!

Hansen is a NASA scientist who has written a couple of books about global warming as well as teaching at Columbia University and being called to testify before Congress. He is no slouch. So having his endorsement is such a wonderful thing even though you, personally, have never heard of him.

You can see the endorsement on the website www.TheBookFootprint.com and/or order the book on amazon.com.

Riding on the high of all this, my daughter’s boyfriend had left the movie, “Big Fish” at our house and I watched it. What a delight! Tim Burton is a very interesting director, and I was sucked into that movie like a lollipop into my toothless cousin’s mouth. By the time I went to bed I was feeling bubbly. A wonderful day never hurt anyone.

Wasting Away in Sofaville

I took a day off today from doing almost everything. Instead of gluing myself to the computer, catching up on filing, or planting the flowers I bought a week ago, I finished a mystery novel that I’ve been struggling through a page at a time in bed before I dropped off to sleep. I should feel wonderful making time for R and R, but I feel worthless.

How am I going to make up these lost leisure hours, I’d like to know? Tomorrow I will have to work extra hard and I won’t catch up. Things will be tabled until Tuesday, and then Wednesday. Is R and R really worth it?

I will leave the answer to the philosophers and people who make a living answering such questions (and please, let me know if you hear of any job openings in the latter). All I know is that it felt pretty darn good.

One thing I noticed about reading while lying on the couch was that I kept dozing off. When I did, my mind would continue with the story. If I dozed off when the big strong man was approaching the petite detective lady, my semi-conscious mind would actually continue on like I was reading: “He took her in his arms and kissed her ravishingly. And then he scooped her up in his arms and walked toward the bedroom, bending down to kiss her along the way.”

I’d startle awake and look at the words on the page and this is what they said: “Lance walked toward Andrea. When he got within arm’s reach, she slapped him hard across the cheek. ‘You bastard!’ she hissed.”

Hmmm, my unconscious mind obviously didn’t pick up on the direction the plot was actually going. This happened over and over – with my half-asleep imagination completing scenes the second my eyes drift closed.

When I managed to stay awake, my conscious mind knew all too well what was coming, long before the author took the plot in that direction. I knew pages and pages earlier that the son was going to get kidnapped. This was frustrating because I really wanted to be surprised. The writing style wasn’t that great, so the plot needed to be good to make up for it. This was a book someone had given me and said it was really good. As I was reading it, I kept thinking – compared to what?

But I finished it, wasting my entire Sunday on the couch, and now I’m going to have to work myself to death to make up for it. I think I’m going to go now and doze off so my mind can take me to a place where my inbox is empty, where all my good intentions have been carried out – every birthday card sent on time, every batch of cookies baked for the new neighbors – and life is carefree, plus there’s a magical box of chocolates that don’t have any calories. I’m going to dub this place “Sofaville” and it’s going to have a remote control that has commercial-free comedies all day long, and a sweet little dog to cuddle up to my feet and keep them warm. All the laundry will be done, dishwasher unloaded, bookshelves dusted, fish water changed, cobwebs knocked down, carpets with vacuum streaks, buttered popcorn that isn’t fattening, and a cheese platter.

OMG – this is so pathetic. Other people dream of changing the world or becoming rock stars. I’m dreaming of a day on the couch. Still, it sounds good. Hence, I’m off to bed where my rich fantasy life awaits me. Here’s wishing that all your dreams come true – at least in your dreams. Good night, my friends.

Sailing Trip, Final Part

When we left Orace and Audrey’s place, we started heading back home. It took a couple of days to get back down to Smuggler Cove, and when we got there the place was full of boats. We found one of the last places to tie off, even though it was fairly early in the day. Everyone was sandwiched in there like a trailer park of sailboats. We had to anchor the back of the boat to make sure it didn’t swing out and hit the people beside us.

There were a million jellyfish everywhere in the water. Little ones the size of silver dollars all the way up to ones as big across as a Frisbee were layered from the surface all the way to the bottom. You could barely see a spot that didn’t have one whipping its tentacles to swim up and down.

We would be going back to Vancouver the next day, and we were in a very festive mood. We brought out the Spanish coffees right away and watched the jellyfish pulsating around the boat, and later stuffed ourselves on another of Esso’s feasts.

Since it was summer, and we were so far north, it didn’t get dark until practically 11:00 at night. We could see big rocks below the boat. The depth sounder warning alarm had been beeping this very annoying noise for the last couple of hours until we finally turned it off. We figured the jellyfish were setting it off.

After one last protracted game of Scrabble – the Spanish coffees made it impossible to think of words longer than 3 or 4 letters – we went to bed. About 3 a.m. I woke up, wedge up against the way. The bed was at a 45 degree. “Wake up you guys,” I hollered, “the boat’s tipping over.” We all jumped up and ran out on deck. The boat was listing way over to one side. The tide had gone out and we could see boulders sticking out of the water.

Esso started the engine and tried to drive us off the huge rock we were resting on, but we didn’t move. I yelled, “Jump up and down on one side.” With all of us jumping, eventually we “rocked” the boat off the rock, scraping over it as we went, and motored out into the cove away from the shallows. We dropped anchor out there and congratulated each other for being so smart and getting off the rocks. I bet we woke up everyone in the Cove.

When our adrenaline levels subsided we went back to sleep, and woke up the next morning surprised that everyone wasn’t heading out of there since boaters seemed to like to get an early start. We ate breakfast and shoved off, excited to be going home.

The boat rounded the corner of the protected cove and hit huge waves and wind blowing like a hurricane. Unlike the rolling waves we’d gone through crossing over the Strait the first day, these were coming from all directions. The boat would get smacked on one side, and we’d list way over. We tipped so far that the mast was only feet above the water and we had to hang on to keep from falling in. Then a wave would slap us from the other direction, and we’d tilt way to the other side.

I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’m a great swimmer, but I knew if I fell in that water, even with a life jacket, I probably wouldn’t survive. We were in a shipping lane, and a few gigantic ferries and tankers passed a couple of hundred yards away. Their wakes came all the way across and tilt us even more. There was not another boat our size anywhere in any direction.

“We’re going to die if we don’t turn back,” I screamed above the roar of the wind.

“We’ll be fine,” Eric hollered. “I’ve got to get back to work.” He had flown up to Vancouver from Portland, and I’m sure he didn’t want to miss his flight. I held on and kept my mouth shut until we rocked so far sideways I thought the boat would fall over.

“We’re going to die if we don’t turn back,” I screamed.

“We’ll be fine,” Eric said.

“Look, there’s not another boat out here. That’s why Smugglers Cove was so crowded – people were waiting out the storm. We have to turn back.”

Eric and I continued this debate for about another twenty minutes. Esso was busy trying to steer the nose of the boat into the oncoming waves, which was impossible, but he was making a good effort.

“If this boat tips over, we’ll all die,” I said after a really nasty wave had the mast practically touching the water. “There’s no way we’d could swim to shore.”

Eric argued, Esso fought the steering wheel with all his might, and I whimpered like a blubbering baby and calculated how many hours I could last in the water before exhaustion overcame me and I drowned.

Another ferry went by, and its wake pushed the boat so far on its side that the mast hit the water. I started crying and begging to turn back, “I don’t want to die, it’s not worth it, let’s go back before it’s too late.”

Either out of fear or pity, Esso turned the boat around. Eric was fit to be tied. “You can’t go back, I have to get to Vancouver today. Oh, man, don’t be such a wuss, you can make this!”

We went back like a coward dog creeping away from a fight to lick its wounds, and I was never happier. Eric, on the other hand, would have thrown me in the water if Esso hadn’t been there.

We got back to the little slice of mooring that we’d left – no one had come into the Cove since we set out. We spent the day there killing time because the storm never let up. We figured that’s why all the jellyfish were in there; they had enough sense to take shelter even if a certain member of our crew did not.

It was a long, antsy, uneventful day of passing the hours, listening to Eric lament not getting back on time and how we could have made it. If there had been a harpoon on the boat, his life would have been in danger. We didn’t play Scrabble that night, which was a relief because I know I would have slapped him.

Next morning the sun was out and we had smooth sailing all the way back to Vancouver. Esso was gone for a long time checking in the boat. “They dived under the boat to check for damage and said there was a big chunk torn out of the keel,” he said. “I have to pay them almost a $1,000 bucks to get it fixed.”

It was then we realized it would have probably been better just to let the boat stay on the rock until the tide came back in, but how did we know?

We took Eric to the airport, and we started the drive back to Portland. We got across the border with the three bags of oysters we’d gotten earlier in the trip, and had a party when we got home with some of the neighbors.

To this day, Eric still says we shouldn’t have turned around. “If wasn’t that bad,” he says, and we get in a good-natured argument. Recently, for my birthday, he blew up a picture he’d taken of me sitting in the boat. I looked like a whale. My face was as round as a beach ball, and my sleeve looked like a tourniquet around my arm. I’d forgotten about all the eating I’d done on that trip, and I was a little embarrassed that I made those guys look at me like that for so many days – they even saw me squeezed into a bikini a few times.

Oh well, they survived it. And now I’m done telling this tale. All is well.

Sailing Trip Part 4

We finally reached Desolation Sound on the 7th day. The wind was blowing, and we hoisted the sail and the brightly colored spinnaker. Each of us took turns sailing the boat. The guys kept their eyes straight ahead and got the boat up to about 6 knots. I had learned in sailing class to watch the tell tales. You want them to go straight back – that shows your sails are getting the most bang for your buck out of the wind. I quickly had the boat going over 7 knots, and the boys were in awe.

When they wanted to drive again, I told them about the tell tales, but neither of them listened, they just kept looking straight ahead and trying to “catch the wind” by steering. Neither got the boat above 6 knots the whole day. This proves my theory about the brain of a man.

Desolation Sound was worth the trip. It had utterly spectacular views of jagged, snowcapped peaks straight from a postcard. There were other brightly colored sailboats leaning into the wind, and I quickly forgot the boredom of motoring all those days. We stayed there for a while, reluctant to leave the first wind of the trip, but it was time to find a place to tie up for the night.

It started getting dusky as we crept along scanning the shoreline for a place to stop. I’m not sure why we didn’t just anchor, maybe it was too deep. Fog set in, and the trees cast spooky shadows that made me think the woods were full of Sasquatches. I was getting a creepy feeling that led to goose bumps. I was also tired and hungry, among other complaints. We saw a couple of dim lights in the distance and motored blindly toward them. We came up to a dock literally in the middle of nothing and nowhere. There were no houses – I don’t even know what the dock led to – it could have just been free standing. It was obviously private property, with only one sailboat tied to it. Esso guided the boat next to it and Eric jumped out with a rope to tie us off. “You guys wait on the boat and I’ll see if anyone is home,” Esso said. I expected a shotgun report to crackle through the silent night.

Someone came off the boat and started walking warily toward us. I jumped on the dock, figuring I could turn on the Southern accent if I needed to – desperate to get some dinner.

“What do you want?” the guy asked like some moonshiner protecting his still. I couldn’t see his face but he was about my size and I thought I could take him if I had to.

“We need to tie up for the night,” Esso said.

“This ain’t a public dock,” the man said coldly.

“Ple-ease let us tie up here tonight,” Scarlett O’Hara said (that’s me). “We’re soooo tired and hungry.”

“We’ll pay you,” Esso added, “and we’ve got beer.”

“Oh well, now, if you’ve got beer, let’s pop one open. I’ll tell the Missus we’ve got company.” He hovered while Eric fetched him a Kokanee. He tilted the bottle up and drank half of it in four fierce gulps. “Ah, that hits the spot. Bring the six pack with you.”

“Give him a minute to tell his wife,” I said, grabbing a fistful of stale pretzels. After a couple of minutes he popped back up out of his boat and yelled, “You coming?”

We walked across about 50 feet of dock to his sailboat. He turned on some lights so we could see to climb on board, and we went below. “This here’s Audrey,” he said, pointing to a smiling, curly haired, squatty little woman in a sweatsuit, “and I’m Orace.”

“That’s an interesting name,” I said.

“Oh, it’s really Horace,” Audrey said, “he just don’t say the H.”

Their boat was a floating single-wide. Seriously, I have been in trailers in East Tennessee that were decorated exactly like this one with a lot of oversized furniture that they must have taken apart to get in the door, and plenty of pink gingham and mauve prints. And there were doilies and knickknacks. A floating white trash museum, but pleasant and homey and a very welcome port in a storm, as it were.

Orace helped himself to one beer after another. I whimpered about wanting to go and start dinner, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He had company and he was going to damn well take advantage of it. Finally I said I’d go fix something and bring it back. That was welcomed by everyone, and I left Esso and Eric there as hostages. I made who knows what – probably peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with potato chips. Esso popped in to get another six-pack of beer.

“You guys drank that first one already?”

“Orace doesn’t even bother to swallow. He just pours them down like he’s putting oil in a car. And she’s pretty fond of beer, too.”

Orace had an appetite, and so did Audrey. For that matter, so did I, and the food vanished well before my growling stomach was ready to throw in the towel. I went back for more, and Esso went back for another six-pack.

They were delighted with everything we said, and wanted to know all the details of our trip. Orace told us slurry stories about being the mailman in these parts, and wintering over without seeing anybody for days at a time. He stood up most of the time, using his hands and arms to accentuate what he said. After awhile he became incoherent, which made the up to then jovial Audrey a little cranky. “You’re drunk,” she said, more than once. She’d stopped smiling.

We kept tying to leave he wouldn’t let us go. “What’s your hurry?” he’d say, and we felt compelled to continue being his audience. I realized that this party could go on all night, so I said, in my Scarlett O’Hara, “Audrey, you have been so kind to welcome us into your home and let us stay here tonight. We might have died out there in the ocean if it hadn’t been for you. I honestly don’t know what we would have done if we hadn’t found you. Thank you so much for everything.” I got up and said, “Esso and Eric, we have overstayed our welcome and you need to get up right this minute and let these wonderful people get some rest.” They sprang up like prairie dogs and grabbed Orace’s hand, gushing gratitude. Esso handed him a greenback, which must have satisfied him for the overnight mooring because he grinned and stuffed it in his pocket.

“There’s no sense in rushing off,” he said, obviously befuddled at the sudden end of his party.

“Let ‘em go, Orace. You’re drunk,” Audrey said, sealing the nail in the coffin of his good time.

“We’re leaving the beer,” Esso said. “And thanks again.”

“We’ll make breakfast for you all in the morning,” I called down from the upper step.

It was fun for a while, but I was pretty to escape the clutches of our clingy hosts. We slept soundly in the perfect quiet of that deserted dock. In the morning, we got up, dressed, made breakfast, did our usual routine at our usual speed, and there wasn’t a peep from the other boat.

“What do we do?” I asked, wondering what sailboat etiquette was in a situation like this.

Esso took another six-pack of beer and put it on the dock beside Orace and Audrey’s boat. They would have come out if they’d been awake. I really wanted to say goodbye and thanks again, but who knows how long it would take them to sleep off that much beer? We started our engine and figured that would rouse them, but still no sign of life. It was a beautiful, green, hidden cove surrounded by mountains and lush forests, with a wispy fog still hanging close to the water. I drank in the scene as we pulled away from the dock, and hoped a Sasquatch didn’t get the beer before Orace found it.

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Copyright © 2017 by Suzanne Olsen