The Voyage Of The Sea Bear

Sometimes I can sort of forget that we live on an island. Your daily life, no matter where you live, it eventually becomes a little mundane. I've caught myself reading the paper, or listening to the radio, and coming across something about people living on small islands, and thinking "How quaint? How do they get to places? Do they take a ferry?", before reality sets in.

Sure there are foghorns, seagulls, boats passing by, beaches all around us littered with driftwood, cooking buckets of saltwater on the stove to make, well, salt, gathering seaweed for soup, but honestly, I do forget that this is an island almost daily. We live in the woods now, busy with chores, traveling down the spine of the island, the one main road that mostly doesn't look over the water. 

If you've read this blog for a good long while, you'll remember that we did use to live on the beach, and for a while we had a little rowboat called Tonttu. (We also had a sailboat, but I wasn't a big fan of it, so I think I posted about it maybe once;) Taking that boat out early in the morning, or right around sunset are some of my favorite memories from those years. 

Since then, we've gotten way more into kayaking, but I stilled missed having the rowboat. I grew up rowing to, from, and around a small island on a  huge lake, and rowing feels like it's in my blood a little. Some of my people were coastal people from the Finnish archipelago, maybe that's why.

Anyway, this August, two days before we started shooting our movie, to be precise, Charlie went off to another island and came back with this strange little boat. 

Now, if you should know anything about my husband, other than that he's a carving-tool maker, and has an impressive beard, you may know that he has really good taste. Not in the classy, or hokey "hip" sense, but that he likes what he likes, and doesn't give a hoot about what anyone else thinks. It's one of the things that I appreciate about him. He loves beautiful things, but the things that are cool to him, are often totally bizarre and unique. 

This boat is a case in point. It's a skin-on-frame Umiak dory, in the style of the Yupik and Inuit kayak building, but in the form of a Swampscott beach dory. A few years ago, he took a class in building his own wood-frame skin kayak, and since then he's been reading up on different native-style vessels. It's light enough to not require a trailer, but just as seaworthy as a wooden dory would be. 

After we took it on its maiden voyage, I couldn't really argue that we didn't need another ocean-going vessel. After all, what's the point of living on an island if you don't go on the water? 

It is the best feeling, different from kayaking, packing up your morning coffee, your baskets of gathering things, your snacks and thermoses, and rowing out to sea. It's a more leisurely way to move on water. In a rowboat you can just float around, or pull up on a beach on a whim, without much gear, or planning. 

Physically too, the movement is different from kayaking. I love both, but rowing comes more easily and naturally to me. 

Originally we were planning to call "Tonttu", "Merikarhu", which is old Finnish sea-slang for an old salt, a seafarer who's the opposite of a landlubber (in Finnish "Maakrapu" "Land Crab"). Coincidentally though, the direct translation is "Sea Bear". We're thinking we'll pass the name along to this little dory, christen her with some kombucha or whiskey next time we go out... 

The fog rolled in as we rowed, watching a fishing boat recede into the distance. A seal followed us around, popping in and out, the way they do when you don't have an engine, curious to see what kind of beastie you might be.

There is an expansiveness to open water, and time flows differently on it. I can't wait for some rainy, foggy, stormy rowing-times this winter, packing the boat full, and taking longer trips, as well as Sunday-rows. Between this sea-bear and our kayaks, we're hoping to spend a lot of time navigating between the islands, poking around new headlands, and finding secret coves.