We were a gang of seven, a mix of family and friends, ages ranging from 40 to late 60s. The task was to haul out our small wooden dinghy and scrape all marine life from the hull, it being the end of the season.

Conrad was armed with the necessary tools – a bucketful of paint scrapers. My stepson Arin and I grabbed the two bikes from the barn and rode circles around the others. I had rolled up my right pant leg to avoid the grease from the chain; the next thing I knew all the walkers had rolled up their right pant legs in solidarity. In this way we painted a merry picture on the short walk to the town dock.

The boat had several inches of water in it from a recent rainstorm. Pulling it up, tipping the water out, getting it onto the narrow dock and flipping it was a precarious endeavor, but no one went overboard. Then the real show began – the hull was teeming with life.

Japanese skeleton shrimp writhed among the olive green rockweed and bronze bladderwrack. Roughly 2 inches long, these thread-like, umber colored creatures were waving about, snapping miniature claws, clearly unhappy to be out of the water.

Dozens of juvenile sea squirts were also adhered to the bottom. The oval, silvery, squishy blobs had ominous-looking dark spots in the middle. Patches of leathery orange sheath tunicates and ruffles of emerald green sea lettuce added to this extraordinary display.

A pungent, briny smell filled our noses as we bent over to inspect the wriggling mass. Exclamations abounded:

“Are they little shrimp?”

“They look like aliens!”

“Look at that – they’re calling to us!”

“I’ve never seen – ”

“There are stingy things inside these!”

“They are not of this world …”

After an extended period of cautious probing, picture taking and lively commentary, we went to work with the paint scrapers. Except for the occasional “Aaargh!” we worked quickly and quietly, trying to guide most of the slimy collection back into the sea. At last the grainy green of the boat bottom emerged, and we slipped it back into the water. At high tide, we would row it around to our neighbors, who kindly allow us to pull the dinghy out and over the rocks in front of their house. We then trundle it back to our shed atop a rusty old wheelbarrow.

Upon leaving the dock, our small group ended up going in different directions. I headed straight to the cottage to enjoy the last of the sun on the deck. Some stopped at the library to peruse the free books on the cart out front; others went to the alpaca farm next door to visit “the girls.”

When the rest of the group straggled back, with pant legs still rolled up, we beamed at each other in unspoken agreement. Truly – it could not get any better than this.


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