Trim Ship; Don’t Rock the Boat

Tales of Vashon

Our last instructions from Papa Jim had been to carry the rowboat, “not to drag it; lest the barnacles and rocks tear up the bottom. “  Mike and I had a hold of the sides while Cousin Jim carried the bow.  “I can’t hold it,” Jim yelled and dropped the boat onto the rocks.  Just a few feet more, crunching on the barnacles and we were on the sand which made a hissing noise as we pulled the rowboat towards the water.  The keelson of the flat bottomed rowboat left a distinctive mark on the sand.

Dick Miller, our neighbor at Portage had their boat in the bay, waiting with his six foot long stick with one end wrapped with an old sweatshirt to joust with.  Down the beach Dick rowed like a fiend trying to get to us before we were ready to fight.  The water wasn’t deep when Dick clipped Jim with his padded stick, knocking him into the bay, where Jim was spread-eagled on his back and sputtering because he had taken on  enough salt water to make him gurgle and bluster: “I’ve been drowned,”  Jim yelled as he stood up in the waist deep water.  We awkwardly tried to recover Jim by leaning over the side and pulling him up.  “SOS, save our sandwiches” and Mike obediently moved the sandwiches to the seat in the bow.

Brother Mike was leaning over the side of the rowboat making it hard to row and putting us in a losing position.  “Trim ship, and prepare to fight.” I yelled at Mike who didn’t know what I meant as he continued to play with his shadow in the green water.  Mike’s tipping the boat caused the bag of sandwiches to fall off the front seat into the bilge.  Grandma Ada had provided us with peanut butter and jelly or PB&J sandwiches and Mike, ignoring  instructions continued  tipping the boat so all the water rushed to one side, soaking our precious provisions that were now lying on the bottom.  “Mike, sit in the middle,” Jim yelled; “and grab the sandwiches.” As Jim took another hit from the Miller boat and Mike yelled, “Hey look, there’s a big crab,” as he leaned further over the side and dropped the PB&J sandwiches into Quartermaster Harbor.

Boys shot marbles and girl’s played pick-up-sticks or jacks.  Bradley’s lived next door at Cove and they had a big maple tree, all trampled underneath, because of the nearness of the dog house to the cover of huge branches that held a swing and a single rope for swinging.  The ground underneath was as hard as a rock, a good place for a game of hop scotch.  The girls kept a stub of chalk in a knot hole in the big maple and laid out the squares, right on the dirt.  If no chalk was in the hole then us guys must have used it to “mark” the dead in a capture-the-flag game.  Sometimes we drew a circle with a stick in the rock-hard dirt and played marbles.  Because of the slope of the ground, some of our aggies and shooters may still be available as cultural remnants or like Indian middens may still be found in the ground.  Attention Vashon future archeologists.

“Gravity is not your friend anymore,” John constantly reminds me.  Like breaking a rib, having fallen off a ladder and landing on a maple staub last winter.  I had fallen 13 feet while trying to lean out from the ladder to hook a cable roof- support.  That resulted in several trips to URGENT CARE.  And then John continued to admonish me that my accident was perhaps “natures warning sign.”  I conclude that gravity is much more a law than a rule to be blithely disobeyed.

As kids, we were leery of tides but unafraid of gravity.  We used “gravity” to get as high as we could on the swing and “went over the moon,” so to speak.  Or, better yet, head for Bradley’s big canyon where the Ivy dripped out of the huge trees in bunches or single strands which we would get ahold of and swing out over the canyon until we were thirty feet off the ground and screaming our defiance of gravity’s law to make us fall..  Every vine was thoroughly tested for its strength before we used it to swing on; though we did have a few that broke and I only remember Kit Bradley as having worn a cast one summer, but maybe that was from falling out of the big maple right above their house.

“Don’t forget to tie a line to a rock and pull the boat out of the tide,” Papa Jim yelled from the bulkhead at Portage.  “Figure out which way the tide is running and make your plans.”  We hadn’t learned when we rowed to Raab’s lagoon and left our boat untied as we went exploring up towards the KIRO towers.  We hadn’t learned to ship our oars properly and when we came back from our hike to KIRO, Papa Jim’s rowboat was gone and we were stranded with one oar in the tide and a smooth keelson line in the sand.