Crossing The Bar

text by Jonathan Ives

Hog Island Bar

The semi dory bounced in the chop as I slowed the boat and raised the outboard. I was in a foot of water and could clearly see the ocean floor all around my boat. I lunged for the spare oar and tried to paddle against the cold northwest wind, but it kept blowing my boat back toward the black rocks of Louds Island. The sun had set a half hour ago and it was getting darker by the minute. I contemplated going back around the island to get to Round Pond from the south. I grabbed the gas tank and gave it a shake. It was far too light to pull that off. If I ran out of gas at the other end of Louds, the wind would blow me out to the open ocean and it would be hard for anyone to find me in the darkness.  The only way home was to cross the Hog Island Bar.

I had just dropped off an apprentice for their island solo. At the Carpenter’s Boat Shop each apprentice spends a weekend alone on Marsh Island to take a break from the busy schedule and allow time for contemplation, relaxation, and meditation. The quickest way to Marsh Island from Round Pond Harbor is to go around the north end of Louds over a very shallow bar. Local legend has it that Hog Island and Louds Island were once joined and that the present day bar was a low spot washed away by storms and a rising sea level. Many think Samoset, the famous Native American who greeted the pilgrims, is buried where the Hog Island Bar is now.

I think of Samoset below me as I lower the outboard back into the water. I pump the gas ball on the tank and fire up the engine. I get the dory into deeper water and turn the boat into the wind. The charts say there are two feet of water over the bar at low tide — but tonight is a minus tide and the waters are exceptionally low. Thankfully my boat only draws one foot. I aim for the deepest part of the channel with enough speed to keep the boat pushing slowly into the wind and waves. I feel the bump of the sandy bottom but instead of backing off the throttle I leap into the bow, pushing it down and raising the stern to keep the prop from hitting a rock. I grab my oar and pole the boat over the shallows. With darkness upon me I feel the boat break free from the bar. I shout with joy, slowly increase the throttle, and set a course for the lights of Round Pond Harbor.