Not Quite Safely Through Winter
by Terese Schlachter
I watch the space between the trees, wishing for a fireplace, wanting more the sun, wondering why I moved so far from friends and bars into a neighborhood of couples and children. As a reminder, I sometimes brave the South River breezes and treat Loretta to a romp on the deserted beach. She smartly avoids the chilly surf, and I ponder the sweet, small sailboat that someone left to fend for itself on Selby Bay through the winter months. It makes clanging noises and I want to rescue it.
Today, there is the slightest whiff of spring. We are so encouraged that we go to visit Bob.
I walk down the hill toward the rack where Bob lives, and Loretta tears past me toward a flock of geese until they launch a symphony of honks and flaps and she stops in her four-footed tracks. Loretta, I think, is the exact opposite of a hunter.
I turn in the mud expecting to see Bob, the next sign of the next season, sturdy, stretched out between bars, his long white hull primed for a dunking. But instead I catch my breath. Splinters of fiberglass tear at his smooth lines. I move closer. Standing over him I see that he is serrated across the bottom, as if split for an open-heart surgery. His bow and part of the pit are gashed. Bob has been savaged, not by the winter but by something human. Something mean.
I run my hands across the wounds, silent, sorrowful, caressing the letters of his name, so lovingly smoothed on when I named the boat after my father. And I remember that long summer and fall, caring for my dad through his illness, his ravaging, before he died. Now my boat is on the critical list.
Bob was the reason Id moved closer to the Chesapeake. Wed met on Tilghman Island, through Bobs previous owner, Captain Dan Vaughn. Loretta and I spent a summer of weekends drinking coffee or beer on Dans porch, Loretta keeping the captain and his cats turbulent company while I ran away for hours alone with Bob.
That fall, the captain decided he could do better with his fleet of kayaks by moving south and was kind enough to let me have Bob. I decided I could do better with Bob away from Washington, D.C., and closer to the shore. Here we explored all the creeks and crevasses the South River has to offer, waving at sailors who called out to Bob and me, in my bikini top and sunglasses, pulling up to chat, but Bob always floating me home.
The wind grew colder, that whiff of spring gone. I wonder how I could have left my steady escort to adventure alone to face the frigid weather and, worse, this awful attack. Gently I roll him to the ground, whispering apologies to someone, maybe God, for not being more appreciative, or to my dad, for not caring well enough for his namesake. Loretta gives him a dutiful sniff and a lick and to me, a sympathetic gaze. I hoist Bob onto my shoulder, careful not to antagonize his wounds, mindful of all the times hed carried me.
With Bob safely strapped to the roof of the car, Loretta and I drive off, seeking safe harbor and a good open hull-doctor.
Terese Schlachter, a resident of Selby Bay and an avid paddler, feels an unnatural attachment to her kayak.