By Mark Baldwin
Our dinghy got loose while our boat Ella was anchored in Burnt Coat Harbor on Swans Island. After we searched the harbor with flashlights in a nearly pitch-black night, I spent hours thinking that somebody would say, “Well, this is a nice little boat I found for myself.”
That was before the Burnt Coat lobster fleet got to work.
A little after dawn, I called Underwater Taxi, apologized for the early hour – No need, Les was awake – and asked if he could help us look around the harbor. He said sure, but first he would make some calls to see if anybody had seen it.
Within minutes, though, the lobster boat Atonement, captained by Josh Joyce, pulled up and asked if we’d lost a dinghy. “How’d you know?” I asked. He said, “You’re the only boat without a dinghy.” Apparently Josh and his crew had looked at every visiting boat in the harbor.
Josh, whom we later learned is the harbormaster, took us every place around the harbor that Atonement could go. Meanwhile Les in his skiff was running up every shallow place that a dinghy could drift.
After about an hour, we decided that Ella’s tender wasn’t to be found in Burnt Coat. Josh said that if the incoming tide brought it into the harbor a bit, it might have made it through the harbor entrance on the outgoing current. “If that happened,” he said, “it could have gone east and then turned north and reached the Sisters.”
The Sisters are two islands east of Swans. Assuming the tender floated into the harbor before heading out, that would be about eight miles drifting from our anchorage in Long Cove – if the little boat didn’t get fetched up on Sally Prude Ledge or John’s Island.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, the Burnt Coat fleet seems to have been abuzz with radio talk about the dinghy. One of the boats in the radio loop (which probably includes every boat, every wharf and some of the spouses on shore) was Lindsay and Lacie, captained by Kevin Staples, who had gone fishing at first light.
Because we had no dinghy, Les and Underwater Taxi took our friends (one of whom missed the class on tying up the dinghy – but it’s still my fault) back to Swans. We headed east to see if Josh was right about the Sisters.
Just after we made our turn east, Josh sent a text saying that the dinghy would be tied up at the ferry dock in Mackerel Cove, about as far from Burnt Coat as you can go around the shores of Swans. We sailed as fast as we could go.
At the ferry terminal, no dinghy. Then Kevin Staple’s Lindsay and Lacie zoomed up and asked if we’d lost a dinghy. There was the tender in their cockpit, crowding the crew who had to work around it all morning.
Where did they find her? Right near the Sisters, Kevin said.
The crew hoisted it overboard, refused any money, as did everybody involved, and went back to fishing. We sailed home to Blue Hill, got into sweet Ella’s Tender and rowed ashore.
I may write a children’s story about “The Little Dinghy that Went,” after I ask Josh and Kevin more about the tides around Swans. But I suspect that if they are too busy, I could ask anybody around Burnt Coat Harbor.
Mark Baldwin is a resident of Surry.