When I was a child our family had a boat. A blue and white Tiberias with an inboard/outboard motor, fishing pole holders on each gunwale of the stern, an open bow and a snap on canopy that didn't get much use. I never once contemplated the brand name Tiberias but later in life while reading scripture, probably while in Catholic School as a teenager, I came across the well know passage of the multiplication of the loaves and fish and a correlation was quickly drawn. The miracle had been performed near the village of Tiberias and is the only town named in the Gospels in reference to this miracle. That boat, the biblical reference unbeknown to our family, brought more fish and shellfish to us than we could have ever procured simply on land. In retrospective it makes me laugh to think how after a good day on the boat and a good catch my parents would outfit me with a huge Tupperware container of fillets and have me go to all the houses on our street and offer our catch to our neighbors. A lanky kid in brown rimmed coke bottle glasses still in wet boat clothes going up and down the street multiplying the fish for the masses. Jesus must have gotten a laugh out of that sight.
The boat was a place where not only our family was strengthen but friendships as well. More my father's friendships but still none of the significance was lost on the young boy. I learned how to fight fish on that boat, I learned the significance of the tides and how to stall the boat high on a current off a reef or rock outcropping and fish right down the reef, letting the current take you with the fish. These fishing outings would usually come in the late days of August through the cold days of October. But in mid-summer our boat wasn't so much used for fishing as it was for ski-bobbing and Quahoging.
Up and down Narragansett Bay (and no, I won't say exactly where) I learned to Quahog. Either off the side of the boat with the big two handled rakes which you handled like a life size pair of scissors or wading in the shallows with a single rake. I think it would be quite amusing to be able to see my younger self, maybe aged 10, maybe a little older like 12, leaning over the side of the boat with the double handled rake digging away waiting for the familiar scrape of something hard. Then to have my small frame drag the rake over the gunwale, remembering to keep the handles tight as not to loose what was in the basket, and then dig out any Hogs from the rocks and conchs.
Though I know my father was next to me for so many of these hog adventures, one instance sticks out so distinctly that it seems like it could have been the only time we ever went out hoggin. Though I would hazard to guess that said memory is nothing more than the conglomeration of all my memories lumped into one hot and sunny day on the port/stern side of the boat. While I worked the teeth and baskets my mother laid out in the bow reading a book with her hair pulled behind a ball cap, my sister was off snorkeling by herself and my father was hoggin with his mask and snorkel. He would dive, dig his knife into the sand feel for the hogs or watch them squirt out sand and silt as they closed up in defense. I was either too young for this avenue of hoggin or just didn't have the comfort of the mask and snorkel yet (I put the previous up for debate but know that it was the later, I didn't take to the mask and snorkel till later in my adolescence).
My father donated the boat to U.R.I. some years later, I'm sure they turned around and sold it, but it was for a good cause for a great aquatic studies program. Life ebbed away from fishing and hoggin for me during my adolescence. The reasons are both personal and lost and would take up far too much time to detail here in one post. I took to surfing and riding the sea instead of fishing from her bounty. I have never lost my accord with the ocean but fishing or spearfishing never took precedence over a good swell. And well, with moving to Florida at age 18 I lost the opportunity to go hoggin or fishing with my father.
It's nine years later and I've set lures (which he has handmade and sent to me wherever I've lived) in Florida, California and Alaska. It's taken the nearly four months since my return for us to hit the beach together while neither one of us were working. But still what's more impressive is that it's taken us fifteen to seventeen years to don mask, snorkel, weight belt, flippers, gloves and metal spike and re-enter the Atlantic together. He never stopped Quahoging this way and I never stopped snorkeling but I still had another lesson to be learned.
For my first time, in this manner, I dug a fair share of Hogs and Little Necks. I nearly caught a sizable adult Flounder and saw a hundred of inch long baby flounder. My father pointed out schools of small Snapper Blues and I saw a Blue Crab with a claw about the size of my own hand. We exited the water side by side with the same beat-up yellow dive bag in my fathers hand that I remember sitting in the stern of the boat and just like it sits in my memory it sat heavy with today's haul.
So the storm came as predicted, but the swell, well, not so much. It's one of those days where you just sit there in shock because you swore there was a chance you were finally going to get to surf. You're looking at the ocean and there's just not shit out there to ride aside from some deceiving chop. But you still wait and try to figure out how you could have been wrong. Eventually you get over it and start the truck back up and go home to lift. Always learning to wait and train for the next prediction.
"Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh." ~~Al Swearenger
It's all out there, sitting, perched, waiting for the tide to bring it to the shore. All the guys; Lando, Dannimal, Daddy Warbucks and T-Rocker have all left the island. No surfing during this visit because there just wasn't any surf. With their departure there is no real sadness for we've been doing this for the past 10 years. All coming and going using this rock of Aquidneck as our home base. Warbucks and Lando are just up in Boston and Dannimal will be back in Vermont, all easily seen but T-Rocker, well he's back to Hawaii, it will be a long time before I will see him again, maybe not that long, maybe I'll bring The Swell to Hawaii for a little bit this winter. And that's what I mean about the horizon. It's all out there. Life after this weekend will slow down. More time for fishing and family, surfing and stealing away for trips up to Vermont and Boston. I excited for the fall. There's swell on the way as well, I predict that tomorrow morning I'll be duckdiving chest high sets.
It's later in the day, the next day to be exact, and I'm feeling the storm on my personal horizon. It's just past midnight and I fell no affiliation with anything good. I start a new job in some 10 hours and it's nothing to me for it's just another bartending gig. Though it's a potentiality 50,000 dollar job I just don't give a shit because it's just slinging drinks to the rich. But I'll suck it up and take their money. Tomorrow I'll roll into Castle Hill in a cocky manner and not because that is what makes up my person but because I've learned that if you're serving the rich and you feed your own personal cache you'll survive but if you falter in their bullshit than they'll tear you apart with their pompous judgment.
It's a matter of comfort and confidence. I'm comfortable and confident with myself, no matter what wine or water is on my table. These people I speak of lack a huge confidence in themselves. You may ask how this applies to The Swell or to the life of surfing itself and I'll put it out here and now that neither money or reputation will ever float you in the water. I have no respect for those who buy a yacht and know nothing of crewing the boat. I have no respect for surf camped adults and I have no respect for the rich with no affiliation with the non-profit.
I haven't touched the water in two days and I felt like I was losing my accord with the tide but today, off a minimal town paycheck, I bought a membership to the Norman Bird Sanctuary and the first thing I did was walk to Hanging Rock. From there I sat and looked on what I help mold for the last three months. It looked beautiful. The beach itself, three days closed, looked groomed and pristine. And here is where I engage the rich and blind; myself and a crew of kids under 20 years old sweat and bled so that this site, this beauty, this pristine, this tide, this habitat, this sanctuary, this haven, this escape and this bliss could exist for everyone.
I little expect that my 16, 17, 18, and 19 year old crew boys/girls knew the extent of what they were doing when they were scrubbing bathrooms at 8am or picking trash in the blistering sun of an August heat stroke but I hope that they had faith in my father and I. I hope they had faith in us for we were surrendering our summers, as a family, to the pleasure and enjoyment of the hundreds of thousands which came to the place we called our home, Sachuest Beach. And it's true that it's a home. It's a home to millions of person's memories and we, as a family of lifeguards and crew, had the duty of preserving and molding those memories and we did it well, we did it very well.
The Norman Bird Sanctuary and the Aquidneck Island Land Trust are doing amazing work, all year round, to keep this island (not just the beaches) undeveloped and pristine for our generations still unnamed. Please support them.
Aquidneck Land Trust: http://www.ailt.org/
Norman Bird Sanctuary: http://www.normanbirdsanctuary.org/welcome.shtml
My truck found new soil familiar to my soul back on the 24th of May as I found Rhode Island by way of Vermont, Southern Canada, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Colorado and Utah. It was a trip ripe with nothing more than I needed to remind me that I was making the right decision. I camped at a solitary lake on the side of a mountain in Utah and by the side of a slow creek in the Badlands with the company of Joel and Joy, an older couple who had been coming back to the same spot year after year and who were so selfless and sent me off with some of the strongest camp coffee. I faced those cold May mornings in the Rockies and north of the Great lakes with a hot cup and Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline. An album inspired very much by Johnny Cash, of whom he does a duet with on the album. Just great driving music for slow morning touring through the overlooked parts of this, our continent.
Today is September 6th, a far cry from May 24th. There was a deviation in my writings where I had imagined I would have written much more. But the beach took up far more time that I had bargained for and the addition of being one of three bartenders to help open a new restaurant took everything I had to give this summer. I hardly saw my nieces and nephew, spent nearly not enough time with my grandparents but moreover not enough time for myself and my writing.
That being said and done, the beach did lend itself to many positive aspects as well it's numerous negative spurs. I'm not going to try and detail any of these at this point, I'd be sitting here writing well in November before I could detail all the madness of being one of a few who run the most beautiful stretch of land on the Eastern Seaboard. And I'll stand by that statement. You go up on St. George's Hill and cast you sight east over Sachuest Beach and Sachuest Point and if you're not in accordance with me after taking in that spectacle then, well, you might as well stop reading this scrawl.
There was no swell this summer. Maybe five afternoons where a trace swell crept up to our southern facing points but not a whole lot more. I caught a couple of these afternoons and surfed the fish on all occasions. I had the pin-tail in the back of the truck, just in case, but never had the opportunity to break her out. I did however use our lifeguard's cache of toys to the fullest extent. I had at my disposal an array of paddle boards, kayaks and well, I guess never did take out either the dory or the van dyke boats. One of the highlights of having a solid crew of Lifeguard Captains, like we had at the beach this year, is that you are inspired by their dedication. I took to the ocean harder than I ever have in times of no swell. They would run, swim, paddle and row and it drove me to stay out of the gym and train in the elements of my passion. I even took it to another level and incorporated long distance snorkeling into my days.
Details are lacking here is this post and I am fully aware of this deviation but rest assured my readers that there are thousands of images from this summer that will grace this log well into the cold winter we have somewhere on our horizon. But that horizon is far off and though the summer is waning away it's the fall which holds the swell. So it's the fall I wait for, for the swell to grow but as for The Swell in which I write, the sets are picking up as you read sit and read this post.