This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue of 48° North

Ah, spring at the marina. Full of promise. Renewal. Great times lay ahead.  

Blah, blah, blah. 

I trudge down to the boat in early March, dock cart full of items from another ruinous trip to the local chandlery for my spring recommissioning. 

It is one crappy day. Everything is a washed-out gray. Low clouds skid overhead. The thick curtain of rain I saw over central Puget Sound a few minutes ago is now directly overhead.  

Tide’s out. I need to traverse the very steep, slippery slope of the dock ramp to get to the boat. I lean backwards as I take each step, wondering just what would happen if I slipped and the cart jetted out of my hands. 

I can see it racing down the ramp like some demented Cub Scout pinewood derby car, picking up speed, careening from right guardrail to left guardrail. Bang. Bang. Boom. It all ends in a spectacular crash at the bottom. 

Would the $328.56 of newly purchased boat gear, overpriced cleaners, and various solvents scatter all over the dock, or proceed directly into the water? 

Whatever, it would be a disaster. There is no merit badge for boater fails.

Safe at the bottom of the ramp. No one died. 

I proceed down the dock. A bump and crunch as one of the cart’s wheels crushes the empty shell of what was once
a small crab. I execute a quick jog to the left to avoid a ginormous splat of otter poo. 

That reminds me, I kinda need to pee. Why didn’t I stop at the marina bathroom? Why do I always do that? Ugg. I glance back. Drops of rain from my hood splatter my face as I tilt my head back. The ramp looks nearly vertical from here. I check my internal level gauge. Three-quarters full. Meh. I can wait. 

Down the dock another 10 yards and I can spy the bow pulpit bobbing gently just over the edge of the dock. Well, at least the boat is still floating.

I execute a hard left and aim the cart down the narrow finger pier of my slip. My neighbor has once again left her boarding steps in the way. Grrrrrr. 

I carefully maneuver the cart past them. The starboard wheel skims the edge of the dock. An image of the famous Bolivian “Death Road” flashes before me. 

As I bring the cart to a stop, I look back at those steps. They are the light plastic kind that you can probably find at the local hardware store. For a moment, I consider going full place kicker on them. I can see it in my mind … executing a perfect Rockettes-style high kick, the steps hurling through the air, splitting the uprights of the masts across the way. The fans go wild. Victory!

I settle instead for placing the steps carefully on her side deck. There, that’ll show you!

I turn back to my boat and give her a once over. I see green. Lots of green. It’s going to take a couple of hours just to get the decks clean enough to spend a few more hours waxing. Ugg. 

Late last fall, on that last beautiful warmish day, the boat had looked lovely. A fresh wash, some waxing and buffing, protective covers all snapped securely in place. 

Now she looks wet, tired and dirty, like a yacht club version of the Flying Dutchman. 

Wait a second. Something seems weird. Is it me, or is the stern sitting too low in the water? 

A quick glance at the waterline and I’m suddenly in full freakout mode. The stern is definitely sitting low.

Holy crap!

I jump aboard and go straight for the companionway. My nearly numb, wet fingers feel like sausage rolls while I fumble to get the key into the lock. Frantic, I start imagining the sight awaiting me below. The cold, dark waters of Puget Sound sloshing about, floorboards floating. Batteries dead. Oh god. 

I slam the hatch open and peer down into the abyss. Nothing. 

Everything looks okay. But I can still feel the wrong angle of trim. I drop below and have a closer look. I pull up — and open — everything I can. I only find dry lockers and holds. 

I’m baffled. Looking out of the companionway, I see my dinghy hanging securely in its davits. It hits me. The dinghy.  

A moment later I gaze down at our rigid bottom inflatable, now filled to the brim with hundreds of pounds of pure Pacific Northwest rainwater.  

I push up my sleeve, reach down through the ice-cold water and pull out the drain plug that I had forgotten to remove months ago. 

Could this day get any worse? I haven’t even ticked off the first item on my spring recommissioning list and I feel like I’ve been dragged through the soft, thick mudflats that spread out from the east side of the marina.  

I feel like giving up and going home. 

Instead, I listen to the steady stream of water issuing out from the dinghy. I can feel the boat settle back into normal. I can hear the flow of water begin to lighten, then turn into an unsteady trickle. 

That reminds me, I really need to pee. 

Back down the dock. Quick jog to the right to avoid the otter poo. Then I’m climbing Mount Dock Ramp and on my way to the place I should have stopped at first. 

The warm, dry air in the marina bathroom feels pretty nice. Better than the wet and cold outside. Even better, I have the place to myself. Another minute or so and I feel a great sense of relief. 

When I emerge, I stop dead in my tracks, shocked. 

The sun is breaking through the clouds and stage-lighting the entire marina. An explosion of colors in sharp contrast.
The place is glowing. There is an entire fleet of boats just waiting to head out.

I see a pair of harbor seals playing a game of chase in the fairway. A bird dive-bombs the water. 

I begin to make my way back to the boat. I feel the sun warm my face. I take a deep lungful of clean, spring air and savor the notes of saltwater and shoreline scents.

Suddenly, I can see it all clearly in my mind. The boat is looking beautiful. We are casting off the lines on a bright summer morning. Are we heading out for the weekend? Or is it for a longer cruise? Maybe just a day sail. It doesn’t matter. It is going to be amazing. 

Ah, spring at the marina. It’s full of such promise. Renewal. Great times lay ahead. 

Okay, let’s get to work. This boat isn’t going to get itself ready for the season.