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One of my favorite writing spots, as many of you know, is on the largest of our boats—a roomy, new-to-us cabin cruiser with two decks and all the comforts of home. My husband and I have a standing Saturday evening date to head out to the marina, kid-free, and hang out. I work on my novel while he changes the engines over to a blue water system or something like that. (I am SO not mechanical — you guys have to bear with me on this one, LOL.)
Anyway, I sit at the dinette table with a three-sided panoramic view of the water, dozens of neighboring boats bobbing in their slips. Alone inside the cabin, the world is immersed in utter peace. With the gentle lob of the boat, the moorings creak and groan. Pelicans land in the water with cumbersome splashes, gulls squawking at the disruption. Water laps against the hull.
For the most part, sounds are limited to those of nature, but through the open door I’ll occasionally hear my husband exchange small talk with one of the fishermen about the day’s catch. There’s a great sense of community there, and although the neighboring boat is just a few feet away, there’s also a sense of being alone in the world. Coming from a home bursting with the chaos of six kids, calling it serene is an understatement.
But last Saturday, it was something else entirely: unsettling. Disconcerting. Bizarre. You see . . . all the water was gone.
Before I go on, let me say this: we share this inlet with hundreds of boats: million dollar yachts, large commercial fishing vessels, and . . . the U.S. Navy. The inlet opens directly to the ocean, so water levels aren’t exactly dependent upon rainfall amounts. As long as there’s ocean, there should be water. Right?
When we got out of the truck and started walking toward the docks, something just seemed off. It didn’t hit me until my husband said, “The water is low. Really low.” That’s when I really saw what was wrong: the water wasn’t just low . . . it was GONE. Several boats were grounded, and many others — ours included — hung at odd, ungrateful angles from their taut moorings. The docks stuck up like scaffolding over the calm water, the spaces below cavernous. When I stand in the back of our boat on a normal day, I’m looking down onto the dock. That day, I had to look UP to see it, and I was looking at the underside.
Normally boarding our boat involves stepping OVER the railing. That day, we had to jump down into the back, and it was a good sized fall. Climbing out involved standing on the tubular railing, praying for balance, and then scrambling up to the docks that jut between every other boat slip. I literally had to pull myself up, managing to get to my hand and knees with a boost from my husband.
It was stunning. And bizarre. The photo below, taken from my cell phone, really doesn’t do it justice, especially from the angle. You can clearly see the boat on the right is visible UNDER the doc, and the markings I made help tell the tale. The arrows point the normal water level versus the one at the point when the photo was taken, and the straight lines give you an idea of where the bottom of the dock is relative to the top of the water. My husband measured a five foot difference in water level (based on the water line) at our boat, which is just a huge volume of water.
Where did the water go? We had a stiff 20 mph wind for the better part of a day, so that’s the likely culprit. (We’re on the coast — we’ve certainly had wind in our area before, but even the old-timers were talking about the missing water!) More interesting, however, is the bit of irony accompanying this event. My husband and I were just discussing the WTFery behind floating docks, a set of which happens to be one row over from us. Same water, same weather, same everything but the price, which towers a good $100-$150 a month more than our stationary slips. Except . . . on the day the water disappeared, those folks weren’t leaping down into their yachts, nor were they crawling back off of them, doing pullups onto salt-treated planks while the cold month of January buffeted around them. Nope, they stepped on and off with mocking ease, nary a well-heeled bobble.
But I bet we had more fun. And certainly a better story to tell.
And in case you were wondering, there’s still no way we’re shelling out for a floating dock.