Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Lucky Toss

"Hi Dad, I'm headed to the grocery store, can I pick up anything for you and mom?" I asked my father over the phone. He and my mom had purchased a second home on Whidbey not long after we relocated to the island. They were looking for a reason to avoid the hot summers in Arizona and be closer to the grandkids. They killed two birds with one stone and purchased a compact one story home in Coupeville and we got to visit with them all summer long.

"Thanks, but we don't need anything from the store. I could use Spencer though," my dad replied. "I need him to go out in the boat with me and pull the crab pots." My dad loves boats and the water. This was another factor in their decision to purchase a house on Whidbey. Their little home was just two blocks from the town boat ramp on Penn Cove. Very soon after their real estate acquisition, dad bought a little boat. Okay, it was more of a dinghy. It was a 10 foot fiberglass Walker Bay with a 2 horse power motor. The Walker Bay was a cool little boat. Not only could it function as a motorized run-about, but if you purchased the "sail kit" it could transition into a sailboat. The "sail kit" included, among other things: a mast, a sail, a rudder and a daggerboard, which when inserted into a slot in the middle bench seat protruded out the bottom of the boat to act as the keel. The keel provides stability to the boat when you are sailing.

Dad didn't need a sailboat though, at least not a 10 foot one (he had his sights set on a larger boat, but that's another story.) What he did need was something small that could fit two people and a couple of crab pots. It also fit in the back of his van. It didn't fit all of the way into the van, about half of it hung out the back. But dad, being a thrifty engineer, designed a boat rack of sorts out of a couple of two by fours and a small piece of plywood. It's legality was questionable and the back door of the van had to be left open but he only had to drive a few blocks. He tied the remnants of red towel to the motor propeller in an effort to appease any sheriff who might pull him over.

So on my way to the store, I stopped by and dropped off Spencer (who was 10 at the time) to help his Pop Pop pull the crab pots. Spencer enjoyed spending time with my dad and going out crabbing was always an adventure. They loaded the boat into the van and drove down to the boat ramp. They got lucky and were first in line to use the ramp. During crabbing season, traffic at the town boat ramp can be fierce. As dad backed the van down the ramp, other trucks pulling boat trailers were lining up to wait their turn. Dad stopped the van, turned off the engine and he and Spencer hopped out to slide the boat off its wooden rack. He handed his car keys to Spencer to better grip the boat to pull it out of the van. Standing on either side, they slid the little boat into the water. My dad and Spencer were now facing each other shin deep in the water (Spencer, in sandals and shorts and my dad in tall rubber boots) with the boat bobbing gently between them.

Knowing they were holding up traffic and the van needed to be moved, my dad said, "Spencer, hand me the keys." Spencer, standing there holding onto the boat lest it float away, heard, "Spencer, toss me the keys." Which he did. He threw the keys in a beautiful underhand toss towards my Dad. The keys rose up into the air and at the apex of their arc the sun glinted off them before they descended back towards earth. The toss was a bit short because their destination was into the boat rather than my dad's outstretched hand. Which would have been okay, excepted they landed exactly into the slot meant for a daggerboard. (As you recall, a daggerboard protrudes out the bottom of the boat.) Both Dad and Spencer paused for the barest of moments as the consequences of this unfortunate turn of events dawned on them. But then they sprang into action, pushing the boat aside to frantically search the water for the keys.
The keys rose up into the air and at the apex of their arc the sun glinted off them before they descended back towards earth.

The area they were searching, although not deep, soon clouded over with silt. More trucks with boats arrived. Sighing, my dad went to the van, retrieved the hidden spare key and moved it off of the ramp. When he returned, he and Spencer boarded the little boat and motored out into Penn Cove to pull the crab pots. Spencer apologized over and over and my dad assured him not to worry, that it didn't matter, the keys could be replaced. But Spencer know how important they were, he had seen how many keys were on that ring and felt their heft. After twenty minutes or so, they reached the crab pots,  pulled their catch (six crabs - not a bad haul), re-baited the traps, and headed back towards the dock. The fun had gone out of the trip as the specter of the lost keys hung in the air. Hopes of continuing the search upon their return were dashed as the tide was coming in and the water was now quite a bit deeper than when they set out.

They loaded the boat into the van and drove back to the house. Once there, Dad removed the motor and he and Spencer slid the little boat out, leaned it on its side against the garage, and then hosed it down with fresh water. They had both just gone into the house, when I arrived to retrieve Spencer. They must have seen me pull up, because Spencer reappeared through the door and came towards the car to get in. "Did you have a good time crabbing with Pop Pop?" I asked as he climbed in the car. "It was okay," he mumbled as he settled into his seat and closed the door. I put the car into reverse and began to back out of the driveway. Spencer, who was staring intently at the little boat leaning against the house, suddenly shouted "Mom, stop!" I braked quickly and Spencer jumped from the car. He ran to the little boat and reached his hand into the bottom and plucked something out. Then he dashed into the house. I heard him call "Pop Pop, I found your keys!" just before the door closed behind him.  As it turned out, the keys got stuck sideways in the bottom of the slot but miraculously never fell all of the way through and into the Cove. Spencer came bounding out of the house and flopped back in the van, his spirits lifted by a lucky toss.  

8x10 inches, oil on linen canvas, 2016
BUY THIS PAINTING AT AUCTION Click on this link to bid:
Big Bonnie Lass - auction ends on Sunday, February 26th at 9:00am PST. 
Such a beautiful bovine lady. She lives on a farm in my hometown of Coupeville, Washington.

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