Monday, December 13, 2010

Among the Workboats

I run the Harvard Portage to the dead lake. But, before I even leave the house, I talk with a woman who tells me how her and her sister built a wood and canvas boat kit and paddled it for years near their home in Montana. I trade her some Yakima River stories from this spring. I love how my canoe can trigger long held and powerful memories and how willing so many people are to share them with me.

The newspaper lady at the drugstore greets me with the usual hoarse laugh and giant smile. We are both busy, but have time for a better than casual greeting, and then I move on.

I cut northwesterly across the lake with a light wind on my left. Breaks in the dark clouds make for a dramatic sky backdrop when sun strikes the sides of boats in the water. Amazing, it always amazes me, how little bird life there is on this lake.

When I get to the Government Canal (Fremont Canal), I find a current flowing west at a full 1-1/2 knots. Three inches of rain from the past days draining into many square miles of lake has turned this placid canal into a minor river for the time being.

I spend a good hour at Fishermen's Terminal, capturing video for a project. There is a distant rainbow to the north while I photograph the fishermen's memorial. I love the sight of the working boats, masts, poles, lines clutter the near sky above their decks and superstructure. There is nothing casual, nothing superficial, nothing clear or easy to understand about them. They are complicated working boats. When I showed them earlier to friends from the midwest, I could explain only the basic purpose and operations. So much of the details are on the job training only.
The current in the canal makes for a energetic return trip. Near the Foss shipyard, a drydock has been towed out in mid-canal and the safety boat sends me to the north side, away from tugboat prop wash and the lines that hold the massive structure in position. As I paddle away, the drydock has settled far enough into the canal that the fishing boat inside can be pulled out.

The portage home, back the way I came, is in a light rain. The front has arrived.

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