I enjoyed the rocking of the boat. I lay on an air mattress and looked up at the night sky, which, away from shore as I was unfolded like black velvet behind and explosion of stars. The moon was a waxing crescent low to the horizon, too low to contaminate the sky with its illumination. I lay there and wondered about the people who sat up at night and counted stars, puzzling how they kept their place when they had to stop. I then wondered what happened to the star counters when the rotation of the sky moved their counting spot below the horizon. As a fourteen year old, I had yet to understand the concepts of scientific sampling, merely counting the stars in a defined area and extrapolating it to the full sky produces a reasonable expectation of the total number. What I knew of the night sky came from science fiction books and my little telescope and star finding book. In my youth it seemed that all boys at some point studied a bit of astronomy and had their own telescopes. Today there’s Google Sky; see the day and night sky from any perspective on earth. That’s all many years from now, as I sat in my rocking boat and looked at the stars.
My boat was a twenty foot Boston Whaler rigged for fishing. I’d pulled the front board seat out to create the pit I slept in. The boat had a little cockpit affair amidships. A wooden structure with a Plexiglas windshield, it supported a dashboard of sorts with a compass and speedometer above the steering wheel. The throttle and gearshift were affixed to the side of the boat. It was powered by a pair of 60hp Mercury outboards that each sucked gas from a pair of 6 gallon tanks. I had about a four hour cruise range, half that pulling skiers and screwing around jumping wakes. True to form I had a deep sea rod and reel set and tackle box full of hooks, weights, leaders, and other paraphernalia. I had a built in cooler that currently contained a few bottles of soda pop, some sandwiches my mom had made, a bunch of grapes and a pint box of night crawlers.
Low in the boat I was shielded from the 10 knot wind blowing. It was a steady wind rather than a breeze with lulls. It wasn’t enough to anger the water, but enough to raise wavelets that gently frothed at their peaks. The frothing also excited the microbes and bacteria in the water, making it fluoresce and glow where the winds toyed with it. Swimming at night was never a favorite thing of mine to do. I felt it was creepy to see the water around your friends glowing almost radioactively sometimes. Then again, Night swimming meant black skies and black water, an overdose to the senses that are frightened by the unknown. What, hidden in the inky blackness was rising even now to rip me to shreds? In the boat, I had no issue, but I spent no time tailing my hands or feet in the dark water.
The boat tugged on the anchor line as the waves bobbed it up and down and the wind pushed on it. Descend, rise, jerk. Descend, rise, jerk. It was mesmerizing, just as the view of the stars above me and I stared at it until the stars faded behind closing eyes. When I woke up again, the sun was orange and peering over the horizon, pointing the way east, the sky was blue, but dulled and grayed still by the departing darkness. Gulls wheeled and hovered, squawking disapproval –I guess that I wasn’t a fish to eat. Or perhaps just annoyed that a place they planned to park a while was occupied by a scarecrow in a tee shirt and trunks. I made breakfast from a sandwich, oddly unaffected that wrapped only in waxed paper it had survived the melted ice and floated atop chilly water. I washed it down with an Orange Crush, making sure to have my morning orange juice. A healthy boy needs his orange juice as my mother would say.
I pulled at the anchor line, taking it in a yard at a time and coiling it between my hand and bicep. Managing line, my father had drummed into me, was paramount for safety and utility. After some hundred odd feet of nylon rope was stowed in the locker with the anchor, I fired up my motors and took a turn around Green’s Ledge Lighthouse before aiming the boat at my home, visible on the Connecticut shore a few miles north. I pulled my equipment from storage and set a line in the water, having the worm bleed across the back of my hand and down my wrist as I skewered it with the hook. Daylight, I washed it off leaning over the gunwale. At the slow troll I was making, it was two hours later that I pulled my line back in and found the worm still intact.
Evening fishing and dawn fishing had been a bust for me. I hadn’t a thing to show for the trip. It was no matter. In a couple of hours I would go crabbing with my friends and it was virtually impossible to go crabbing and not bring home a bucket of blues.