Monday, May 5, 2014

Listening to the Little Voice

Eric doing his best GQ pose, happy on Willadine

As soon as we get out in the river, I’m thinking Oyster Bay. I have no logical reason for this, can’t explain it, but the little voice keep s insisting, Oyster Bay, Oyster Bay. Eric sails Willadine east, headed for Judith Island where some friends anchored recently. I saw my first marsh hawk there. It’s lovely. Still, I keep hearing, Oyster Bay, Oyster Bay. I suggest this to Eric, but apparently, his little voice is now saying Mouse Harbor. It’s his favorite place out here, a large ring of Marsh, with river on one side and the sound on the other. We almost never see other humans there. There are no houses, very few duck blinds, just a permanent shelter for bird watchers.

Somehow, in an uncharacteristic move, Eric misses the entrance to Mouse Harbor and runs us aground trying to get in a back way that isn’t a back way, at all. It’s a lovely spot anyway, with sandy beaches a short wade away. The water is only about a foot deep. Trusty motors us off and we head for guess where: Oyster Bay. My little voice relaxes, feeling smug. We’ve been in Oyster Bay several times, usually on our way to Mouse Harbor through the sneaky cut that only Willadine and the fishermen can get through. It’s about two feet deep. 

Today there is a nice easterly blowing us right into Oyster Bay. Running downwind on the headsail alone is such a fine easy thing to do we love it. It’s very quiet in Oyster Bay. I look on the chart and see that the creek actually goes really far back, much farther than we’ve been before. A small fishing boat with a ruddy faced man and two little boys veers past us, makes a loop and comes back around. The man, who for some reason I expect to have an Irish accent, but doesn’t, asks if we are lost. Over the noise of his motor, he can’t seem to hear that we only draw eighteen inches, but he lets us know that it’s only four and five feet deep in this bay. We thank him and he says he’s never seen a sailboat in here before. We are not surprised. He zooms off.

We watch as he goes up to the Oyster House, a long low industrial looking building with bulkhead all around and a shiny silver metal roof you can see for miles. Apparently, it was a going concern at some point, but now it seems like a casual stopping place for local fishermen. Off the back is a raised porch with chairs, tables and a couple of hummingbird feeders, a woman’s touch. Still sailing, we pass it all by and emerge into new (for us) territory. There are no houses as we venture farther back, just marsh and trees and more duck blinds than you might imagine. Beyond the marsh and the single line of trees, we can see the river and in the distance the north shore. Around the next bend, I see a dark spot in the tangle of white and orange crab pot floats. It moves. Eric sees it at the same moment.

“What’s that?” He asks me.

I peer at the round head with the binoculars, but it dips under before I get a look. It’s not a crab pot float. It’s something alive. Of course my first thought is alligator, but it was round, not reptilian at all.

“Beaver?” Eric offers.

“Yes, maybe beaver, but they didn’t slap.” Beaver slap the water loudly with their tails to alert others to danger. These critters don’t slap. Instead, through the binoculars, I see a sleek brown head poke up, roll over on its back and munch a small fish using its agile paws.

“Otters.” I say, quietly reverent. “River otters.” Otters are my favorite animals. If I could choose to be reincarnated, it would be to come back as a sea otter. I have never seen a river otter before (much interesting information on them found here) and they are just as cute as their seagoing cousins. We glide silently by downwind on our headsail watching the pair of otters frolic and bob, peering at us curiously.

We drop the anchor after we pass the otter spot, hoping to get more looks at them, but they never reappear. We eat a light dinner and I throw out a fishing line, but nothing bites. I wonder if the otters eat their fish whole, head and guts and all, or if they just chew out the fleshy bits. 

The sunset comes a little later, the clouds lit up in pastels of lavender and pink, the sun a giant orange ball dropping behind the single line of trees. The sunrise is not as dramatic, but it comes up through the trees as well, making a lovely dark frame for the brilliant sun.

I can hardly believe my good fortune in getting to see that pair of otters. The little voice was right. Oyster Bay was the place to be, although from now on, it will always be Otter Bay to me.

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