Behold the crab skiff “Mollie,” gifted to me by a dear friend in Maryland sometime in the ’80s. The boat had belonged to her grandfather. A smooth circle worn into the planking showed where he’d always kept a basket for the crabs. I never painted it but did work some epoxy magic on bottom of the hull. This was the type of craft that always had a little water in it, enough to keep the boards all damp and swollen so they stayed mostly tight, giving it that tangy algae and fish parts smell some of you might recognize. (See here, too.)
The Chester River shown above is a wide tidal river that flows into the Chesapeake Bay. I always loved being out on the river because it went somewhere, at least in theory. From that exact spot you could literally sail to Africa, for instance. The pull of possibility was always present in my mind.
I thought of this today because it’s Memorial Day. When we lived on Southeast Creek in Queen Anne’s County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the river was a quarter mile away by boat, and on Memorial Day we’d motor upstream to find a stretch of deserted sandy beach and have a picnic. (I may have taken that very photo on the holiday, in fact.) I had a long pole attached to the tiller on the outboard motor so I could sit or stand in the middle of the vessel, adjusting the trim with my weight to achieve the greatest “speed.” One could probably run faster, but the old Evinrude and Mollie did the job.
Those days are gone forever now. There’s no way to rent a seventy-five acre waterfront farm for $150 a month like we did then. We lived in a huge two-story house surrounded by enormous trees. The basement was the kind of place you never went. We heated the entire thing with one big wood stove in the kitchen. There were barns and tractor sheds back in the woods, all overgrown with vines. The sandy lane out to the country road was almost half a mile in length and kept life private, quiet, and amazing. We’d see deer, foxes, Canada geese, ducks, and herons all the time. I remember standing out in a cornfield one frozen night to look for Halley’s Comet. There was no internet at all.
I can’t believe we only get one shot at living like that. The interweaving of our lives with Nature, the ease of nearly everything that came when we were young.