Warren’s World: The Captain’s Gig

By Beacon Staff

When you are retired you wonder when you ever had time to go to work for a living. You can now do anything you want to do, any time you want to do it, as long as you can afford to do it. It’s called freedom of choice.

I decided that I could get some exercise while rowing a boat around the many islands that surround the island where my wife and I live up near the Canadian border in Washington. I visualized seeing eagles, whales and all sorts of wildlife as I rowed silently through the early morning light. I read all of the pamphlets, saw all of the videos at the January boat show and settled on a modified Captain’s Gig.

It is now officially called, “The-muscle-breaker-blister-builder.”

The other day I started out on a three-mile row around a nearby island. At one point the tide was at full flood, running 3 mph. It took me about 20 minutes to row upstream through the pass, but I knew that on the way back I could coast almost all of the way home.


I finally got to the west end of the island to visit a friend of mine who is building a house and he needed a hand moving some heavy lumber. By the time I got through helping him, the tide had come in and my rowboat was adrift at the far end of a 30-foot long line in four feet of water. Fortunately I had tied it to a tree trunk that hung out over the beach, so it was no big deal to walk out on the trunk and lower myself down into the boat.

The 14-year-old kid lurking in my senior citizen’s body didn’t have enough coordination to pull this off. I hung down from the tree trunk, let go, and the boat quickly turned upside down.

Instantly, I was waist deep in 47-degree water, hollering in pain while my oars silently floated away. I rescued them from chest-deep water and then waded to shore, dragging my new boat full of water behind me. It was now high tide so the very narrow beach was two feet under water. My former friend, who I had just helped move all of his lumber, was laughing so hard he was no help at all. My dog Pepper was still dry, barking and generally getting in the way.

A 14-foot rowboat full of about 20 gazillion gallons of water is hard to bail out in the fast fading light when you are sopping wet and freezing cold. I finally got everything back in order and thought the two-mile row home with the tide would keep me warm enough until I got there.

Wrong again.

The tide had shifted, and I had to row uphill all of the way home. Instead of 30 minutes of exercise, it took more than an hour. It was almost dark when I finally started rowing across the bay to our house.

A powerboat, driven by a skipper who was also trying to get somewhere before total darkness, almost ran over me in spite of my loud, staring-death-in-the-face screams.

It missed me by about 10 feet, but sprayed water all over me and my dog. The boat disappeared into the darkness with his stereo playing full blast and a notorious local bimbo in the seat beside him.

My dog was now shivering trying to snuggle up to me for warmth. Rowing is difficult with a 20-pound dog in your lap who, like me, was also whining and shivering. The blisters on my hands were the only warm part of my body as I finally got back to my dock.

As my boat banged against the dock, my dog jumped out and ran for the warmth of the house. This left me all alone in the dark to try and climb out of the boat. When I was finally able to stand up, I immediately fell over – fortunately onto the dock and then managed to stagger up to the house.

In the evening glow of the dining room lights I could see three couples that I had forgotten we were having over for a summer dinner party. I was two hours overdue and Laurie, my wife, had already called the sheriff, the coast guard and every neighbor within three miles.

Once I warm up, which I know will take about a week or so, I’m going to spend as long as it takes building some outriggers for my new rowboat.

When you are retired, you can do anything you want as long as you have the time to waste and are dumb enough to try it.