The fluffy snow that fell a few days ago has gone slushy. The wet cold soaks my gloves and stings my hands as I clean off the dinghy’s gunwales before turning her over on my front yard. My palms so itch with the need to get rowing that I don’t care about discomfort. It could be zero degrees and I know that I’d still be doing this.
I work quickly because the December afternoon sun is rolling swiftly toward the horizon. I would have gone earlier, but there’s the 11-foot tide to consider; hauling a 106-pound Water Tender 9.4 long distance over the rocky shore is not an option. I waited for the water to come to me.
Blue Wimple is not an elegant pram, but sometimes, when you just have to be on the water, a boat is a boat. This is one of those times. Between COVID and other changes this year, I have not gotten my fill of boating.
The Water Tender is made of rotomolded High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and is pretty much indestructible. Half as wide as long and flat, it would be quite difficult for a wave to flip it and toss me into the 47-degree water.
The serial number plate indicates Blue Wimple was built in 1998 and she looks pretty much as she must have back then. The boat is rated for 5 horsepower, but boats with motors are not permitted at the town dock floats. The lobstermen tow their motorized skiffs on trailers and launch them beside the dock, and both fishermen and summer yachting folk row to and from their boats, taking oars and oarlocks home with them.
We acquired the dinghy as an accessory to a Cape Dory 25 named Blue Nun by the original owner who was a wine importer. Her hull is blue, so we named her Blue Wimple. Blue Nun has long since passed to new owners, but Blue Wimple has been useful for carrying gear and for rowing around the harbor, though with my husband sitting on the back seat she is much harder to move.
Now that we have relocated to this Maine town and are no longer just summer folk, I can theoretically row anytime I want, which is why I asked the boatyard to take her down from the top of the dinghy rack. We strapped her to boat launching wheels and walked her around to our house. Sun Dolphin, a company based in Michigan that still makes the boat, calls it “an affordable yacht tender or cottage front rowboat” and this fits Blue Wimple, as now to get to her, I just have to walk across the road in front of my house to the Eastern Harbor.
I shove her the last 10 feet until she floats, climb in, set my oars. A crow calls and a pair of loons duck under the water’s surface. The human quiet is unreal. No highway noise. No airplanes overhead. I’m not sure what it is about boats, but when I’m on one, any kind, I don’t worry about anything else or being anywhere else. Maybe that’s the draw.
Only a faint, wind-driven ripple breaks the water’s surface, and my oars easily dip and pull, dip and pull. Like riding a bicycle, I learned to row so young I can’t remember ever not knowing how to create this rhythm. I briefly try and recall whether I learned it in a sailing program or absorbed it by watching the adults.
It’s growing dark and my state of suspension doesn’t last, but I feel it was enough. I row back and tug Blue Wimple up the rocky shore a bit, just above the seaweed line beside a boat house.
My husband, Tom, walks down from the house.
“How did your new boots work out?”
I pause for a beat before looking down at my shiny black rubber boots.
“I didn’t even notice them.”
“Good. That means they work.”
Or my feet are frozen. I wiggle my toes in double-layer socks before patting the dinghy, picking up the oars, and heading home. I can come back anytime I want.