One sunny blue-skied afternoon in Onset, while Maggie was still with us, two powerboats tore through the small, crowded anchorage making sweeping turns and tight figure eights. Each boat towed tubes with kids screaming in total excitement as they rounded anchored sailboats again and again. On deck, we watched as one of the powerboats zipped by our bow just a few feet away. I braced, secretly wanting his propeller to grab our G4 high test anchor chain and be disemboweled. We rocked hard in the crosspatch of wake, and I exhaled in disappointment. “How long can this last?” I asked myself seeing the boats jostling in the anchorage thinking back to the pendulum of anchor lights in Rockport. Down below, pots, cups, dishes, silverware clunked and clanked. “Where is the harbor master?” I thought to myself. Literally, seconds later the dark grey patrol craft quietly emerged from the channel. Both power boats were busy ripping through the moorings and around the anchored boats with squealing kids in tow.
The patrol boat slowly vectored towards Caprica as she pitched from a new wake. Inside a clean-shaven young uniformed law enforcement officer was making alpha male eye contact with me. Next to him and at the helm, a broad-shouldered polo clad weather-beaten man gave me a subtle wave. I returned the semi wave as they passed to our stern. “I guess this is allowed here,” I thought to myself watching the powerboats blow by a Bermuda flagged catamaran. Ultimately, I decided not to complain and be THAT GUY from out of town.
After Maggie departed the next day, Alison and I made a few trips into town to take care of laundry that should have been thrown overboard, met new found friends and grabbed lobster laden BLTs. We watched, weather-weary, a forecasted low-pressure system, and potentially high winds, filling our time with forays to the beach where Eleanor rampaged and chased hungry gulls. As the evening called, we ducked below and slept in the quiet Onset anchorage having enjoyed ourselves in one of our favorite harbors.
The next morning, the familiar alarm clock chimes buzzed, but I was already ahead of them. Through the night, Caprica recoiled against her ground tackle as the wind gusted into the low 30’s. I was awake much of the night on anchor watch waiting for the tell-tale signs that we were dragging. I was confident in our ground tackle but always cautious knowing it’s much easier to deal with sleep deprivation than a grounded boat. I checked the early forecast and peeked outside to take a look at the canal. The wind had calmed, but steady breaking waves accented the canal’s already turbulent water. It was easy to push our departure off for a day.
As Eleanor and I headed to the beech for some daddy-daughter time, she smiled and said “Just two people. You and me daddy. Just us.” I pushed the outboard tiller away from me and turned the throttle as we vectored towards the channel. The little 6 horsepower outboard labored to get us on a plane, but the exertion was worth it. Eleanor giggled and laughed as we skipped over a few gentle ripples and made a wide turn towards the Onset town pier. I dialed back the throttle and our dinghy (The Jack Burton Pork Chop Express) bogged down then was pushed forward by the stern wave.
“Hey!” someone called. I looked over at a small center console powerboat leaving the dock. Standing on the large city bulkhead was the same uninformed marine law enforcement/ harbor master that I saw the other day. The powerboat operator was looking up towards the dark green-uniformed officer.
We entered the small and crowded dinghy area, and the officer was standing on the docks looking away, towards the moorings. “Okay,” I thought “He’s clearly here to talk with me.” I approached the dock, looking for a space to tie up. Dinghies were parked two deep. I took a minute to find a dinghy that we could climb through to get to the dock; a precarious maneuver in the best of circumstances. Many were filled with water slicked gasoline or inches of grime. We finally push up against two dinghies that I thought Eleanor could climb through.
“Do you have a life jacket for yourself?” The officer was facing me.
I held up 3 lifejackets as Eleanor surveyed the beach. “My friends!” Eleanor excitedly yelled and pointed at a group of kids chasing a few gulls. “I want to see them, daddy. Can we go there?” I hushed her and grabbed hold of a dinghy.
“It’s 6 knots through the entire harbor!” he said, hands on hips.
I turned the 6 horsepower outboard motor off with a flick of my wrist, yanking the kill switch. “Stay here,” I said to Eleanor and climbed through two reasonably clean dinghies, avoiding the one laden with inches of two cycle oil and fuel film rainbow slicked rainwater leaking out of the stern.
I scampered to the dock over a moving obstacle course of oars, fuel jugs, life jackets and semi-inflated dinghies. On the dock, I took a second kneeling to tie off the Express.
“6 knots.” He repeated. “Your speed was ridiculous!”
Eleanor sat in the dink staring longingly at the beach and kids running through cool sand.
“6 knots,” I said. “Okay. 6 knots. I will abide by that.” I thought many things in those few seconds as I stood from tying the knot remembering the fast movers circling Caprica just the other day.
“Daddy. Can we go to the beach?” Eleanor implored from the Express.
“Okay Sugar Lump. Climb to me,” I said and watched my daughter expertly traverse the two dinghies between us. “Great job!” I said, giving her a hug as the officer walked away.
Later that evening back at Caprica, I told Alison about the encounter. “6 knots?” she said laughing. “What about those boats the other day?”
“I know,” I said feeling like I’d see that officer again. “It’s time to go.”