Thursday, July 03, 2008

Me and the Sea

Screwed by Peter Pan and a mean, stubborn bus driver, I stood stranded and exhausted at the Woods Hole ferry station after 10 o’clock on a Saturday night, 8 hours before the next ferry would depart for Martha’s Vineyard. Alongside eight fellow victims, I was not alone, but we were at the end of the line, and I began scouting the wharf for a nice spot to sleep.

A swarthy man in a Steamship Authority uniform ambled up. After chewing out our bus driver for failing to expedite our trip and get us there four minutes earlier, he offered a last-ditch option. The Patriot Party Boat—a chartered fishing boat—would make an 11pm trip to carry the morning newspapers to the island. Feeling like commandos, the nine of us piled into a cab, and rocketed through Falmouth to the boat’s berth. We arrived to find the harbor nearly empty, save for a few silent Chinese fishermen dangling lines off the pier. We fruitlessly searched the port’s buildings, but our hope was renewed when a gabby Indonesian man showed up, and I sweet-talked him into driving me down to investigate the other end of the wharf, where the Patriot Party Boat Too was docked. The far end, it turned out, was more deserted than the near. I returned, and my group of nine began to despair, while I again looked for a comfy bundle of ropes to pass out on.

As if materializing out of the mist, an ageless man appeared in work pants and a white button-down shirt, open at the top, revealing dark chest hair, sprinkled with white. “Looks like you folks need a ride to the island;” he was like the stalwart, friendly father out of “One Morning in Maine,” and our savior. As it turned out, we were just lucky—the early edition of the Sunday Globe had already gone over, and the news sections wouldn’t go for a few hours yet—but the friendly fisherman had to make the trip to pick up a five-piece jazz band that had just finished their set in Oak Bluffs.

The ocean is black at night, and we passengers sat silent, exhausted and relieved, enveloped by darkness as the harbor lights grew small. Only the roar of the diesel engine cut through the thick gloom. The summer solstice moon rose in the east as we hummed over the water, and it sat lazily on the horizon, looking as though someone had dipped their thumb in red-orange paint, and smudged it on the sky.


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