Running in the Tide

Tales of Vashon

The winter low tides come at night and in summer, they come at daybreak.  The stronger the pull of the moon, the lower the tide.  They say the tide is running when it’s coming into the harbor at a high rate; when waves appear; running along the beach.

In Murden Cove, where John grew up on Bainbridge Island, the tide came across the hot sand faster than a child could walk and became dangerous when the water became a foot deep, making it hard to run and keep up with the rising water.

“Help, help, I’m sinking,” Brother Mike called from a patch of sand on the Sequim beach that looked like any other “sand” but was really “quicksand” which could swallow you up and never leave a trace.  “Hang on,” I called out while I searched for a long branch or board to rescue him with.  Stepping into quicksand was like trying to walk on a bowl of gravy with no bottom.  Mike was up to his waist in the stuff when I reached out with my branch for him to grab and pulled him to higher ground.

I thought if I kept my head down that I could avoid getting sand up my nose when I knew that my mouth was already full of it and Mom wouldn’t let us in the trailer because our hair would be full of it too.  It started out as a game on the beach like they played “fox and goose” in the old days but that didn’t appeal to us like digging a hole in the sand that was eight feet deep in the middle with sides that sloped up towards the rim and they were still hard to climb; especially if your eyes were full of sand too.  The older and stronger kids did the heavy shoveling to get down that deep and then the fun began.  The object was to join a circle around the top of the hole and a ball that wouldn’t hurt much, unless you got hit; you know where, and it double’s you up with pain.  It happened to me twice and it’s not nice.  I lost the ball down the hole and dove in to retrieve it; while the kids up above and the girls too; pelted me with sand until I was blue in the face.  You had to crawl out of the hole with possession of the ball to determine the next throw.  To an outsider we probably appear like something out of Dungeons and Dragons.  We had to dig a new hole the next day, because one of the parents asked us to fill it because of the danger of someone falling-in it in the night.

It’s the possibilities that keep us returning to the beach and beachcombing; or finding things of great value.  Sometimes it was fishing gear or a homebuilt raft and always the promise that there might be something more, further down the beach.

It was going to get dark soon and Mike and I were rowing down the shore which isn’t as good as walking the beach because you can’t see as much.  We were looking for logs or small boats that had washed up on the beach; repaint them and try to get $50 for it.  That only happened once or twice.   Mostly the owners came and picked up their boats and maybe you got a couple of bucks out of it.  If we found a good log, something that Shorty would want, we cut the brand off and Shorty picked it up in his log patrol boat, licensed and all.

Stealing logs from log booms was common until the state decided to license these people who collected logs that had escaped the boom to sell them to the local mills.  Typically, a log patrol boat was a 20 or 30 foot work boat with a small cabin, the state number roughly painted to a sign on the top of the cabin.

We were a couple hundred feet from shore and the night was pitch-black when it rose out of dark and gloom in front of us. “It’s stick’n up 20 feet,” Mike called from the gloom and with that we hit it with a hard glancing blow.  It was a steel smoke stack sticking up out of the tide; we were over the tug; somebody had sunk for the insurance money, years ago.  We had heard the story but had never rowed this part of the beach.  We tied up to the smokestack for the rest of the night.

In the morning, you could see the tug through the dark murky water.  We were waiting for the tide to go out, so we could find some stuff.  “It’s been pretty well picked over,” Mike called from the bow, “Anything that could be unbolted is pretty much gone.”

They later floated the tug with air bags and sold it for scrap.