And Then For Many A Weary Moon I Labored At The Galley’s Oar…


Well, really, it was for a good few hours, and I labored at the kayak’s paddle, but I feel that this lacks the poetry of the original.*  And then later, for what felt like a many a bloody moon I labored with toothpicks, rubber erasers, and packing tape.  My husband’s bifocals gave up the ghost this afternoon, cracking right across the bridge, which has got to be the most difficult spot for repair.  And they’re wire, too, so you don’t have a lot of leverage to play with, and I think they’re also titanium, which means that none of the 1,000,000 artists and sculptors that populate this area would be able to effect a useful repair with a soldering iron.  My solution, which is utterly makeshift and which I suspect will disintegrate with a breath, was to hack the tip off of a pencil eraser (the pointy kind that the pencil wears like a hat), slot the busted ends of the wire bridge into it, and then tape the lot together as quickly as I could.  I think that this will hold together well enough for the emergencies that may arise until we can see the optician in town on Monday.  Why these things must always happen on Saturday afternoon (or Friday night or Sunday morning) I do not know.

In the meantime, we went into town so that he could acquire a pair of cheaters. He picked out a pair that was festively decorated with polka-dots, brightly colored stripes, and a few little flowers painted on.

“Those are for women” I said.

I am proud – amused, but proud – that this information did not deter him.  By golly, he wanted the blingy festive reading glasses, and he was going to have them.  He sees them as being “hippy” and feels what I suspect to be a misplaced confidence that Bill Nighy would wear such a thing. Why it should matter that Bill Nighy might wear them is a topic that I have yet to explore.

While jerry-rigging the bifocals was a fiddly process that felt like it took much longer than it did, the time I spent laboring at the kayak’s paddle seemed to flow by in an instant.  When we rose this morning, we had the fog that I thought we would have yesterday.  Visibility was down to, I’d say, 20 feet here.  It was as thick as a feather mattress, this fog.  Over breakfast we formulated a set of extensive contingency plans, starting with a trip into town to see if it was fogged in (and kayaking if it was not) then moving on to a trip to the botanical gardens to see if they were fogged in (and taking in the gardens if it was not) then moving on to a possible hike in a high area of the point, etc.

The meteorologists predicted clearing in late morning as they did on the last two days.  In all three cases they were entirely wrong.  The first two days the fog cleared well before they expected, and today, it didn’t clear until 4:30 – and even then, it was only mostly clear.  So given that we were socked in like a down comforter, why did we need to investigate the situation in town, which is 3 miles away as the crow flies?  Because I have seen cases where the western half of the harbor is entirely clear, while the eastern half is invisible…and where the air at the top of the harbor is crystalline, whereas the entrance to the harbor is opaque.  It is impossible to formulate a reasonably reliable expectation…or to expect that whatever the conditions are now, they will remain so for any length of time.

Lucky us, the town was totally clear of fog, so we rented our kayaks and set out.  We have done tandem kayaks in the past…but there is a very good reason that the professionals refer to the tandems as Divorce Boats.  My husband has a singular sense of rhythm, in that he’s usually the only one with that particular beat.  He is also non-goal-directed.  I have a standard and firm sense of rhythm, and am goal directed. This does not make for Happy Tandem Kayaking.  We have sworn off those – several times, I’m afraid – in the past, and now, it is single kayaks all the way.

I lit out with the intention of visiting the Burnt Island lighthouse.  It is placed on an island in the mouth of the harbor, and is very scenic.  Halfway there, however, the wall of fog descended on everything so firmly that I thought for a moment that I’d heard it go “clunk” when it hit. Ordinarily, I would not take a single kayak out into a busy harbor in the fog…the problem was, I was already there when it happened.

Things got exciting for a bit.  My first thought was to circle the kayak back around so that I could tell my husband “Don’t go into the fog.” but then I decided that since he’s got a PhD, he was probably smart enough to figure that out for himself.  I was 90% in favor of this conclusion – although notably, not 100% – so I kayaked on.  Since I couldn’t see 30 feet in front of me, and since the Burnt Island fog horn was now sounding like it was coming from everywhere I bailed on Plan A.  And formulated Plan B: kayak across the harbor to the other side, and paddle back making sure I could see land at all times.

Plan B started off with a thrill.  I could hear a mid-sized power boat, possibly a lobster boat, possibly a cruiser, roaring into the harbor from the bay.  Problem was, I couldn’t see it.  Which meant, of course, that it wouldn’t be able to see me.  I love ocean kayaking, it’s my third-favorite sport (after horse riding and downhill skiing, both of which are tied for first place) BUT…it is not really the sort of thing where adrenaline will help you lay on speed.  I kept paddling as constantly as I could, watching in what I thought to be the right direction for the entrance of the harbor, and hoped that the oncoming boat would turn out to be nowhere near me.

That hope turned out as so many hopes like that do…in disappointment.  The boat was on me before I could see it, and I was deeply grateful to discover that it was a commercial craft – which meant that the captain understood where the Slow Zone started and that he needed to watch out for small craft in the fog.  I could have gotten very unlucky if it had been one of the Weekend Warriors that you get around here once in a while.  Speaking of those Weekend Warriors – last year on the ferry back from Monhegan the ferry captain drew everyone’s attention to the sight of a mid-sized sailboat being towed into the harbor by a commercial tow-boat.  The mockery he had to shower on the head of a sailor who couldn’t sail his own boat into a very large, very deep harbor bears repeating, but I am afraid that I cannot do it justice.

My little collision narrowly averted, I paddled on for another 45 minutes, enjoying every minute of it.

Kayaks go over everything

My kayak went over some very interesting rocks, investigated several tidal pools, visited a small colony of terns, carried me past the local hospital – which has an Emergency Dock – and through the shipyards.  All this with the fog blowing over and through it all.  Great time, and I can hardly wait to go again.

*Robert Howard, “Thor’s Son”


Rockport Kayak Corral


About Lori Holder-Webb

I'm a Southern Woman by birth and a Texan Woman by upbringing...and yet I find myself living in New England and married to a New York City boy. Up here we use the same currency as we do at home, and I don't need to travel with a passport, but the commonalities pretty much end there. The language is different, the jokes are different, the people are different, and the weather and terrain sure are different too. I moved away from Texas in 2002, and ever since then, I've been the stranger in the strange land... I've had some questions about the name of the blog - if you were not alive, or living abroad or under a rock, or in grad school during the late 1980s, Oldsmobile attempted to shuck its stodgy image with a series of commercials intended to bring brand appeal to the younger generation: this car, they said, is not your father's Oldsmobile. If you have a morbid curiosity, hit YouTube for William Shatner will take you right there.

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