“You told ‘em you’d be paddlin’ with an ebb runnin’ abeam of your boats. I heard ya! Ya gotta tell ‘em again or that ebb’s gonna sweep ya out the gate!”

I’m tempted to do what Grandma says, but before I can utter a word, “Don’t you listen to her, Johnny,” says my other Grandma, both of them exercising their 1st amendment rights in my head. “Don’t Follow Don and Gandalf know what they’re doin’.”

Not hesitating a second, “Don’t be weak, Johnny,” shouts Grandma #1. “You studied the tide charts before you left. You know what’s goin’ on. Tell ‘em to ferry more to the north!”

I don’t wanna favor one Grandma over another, it just wouldn’t be right, taking sides. But I might have mumbled something about us needing to ferry more to the north, but I don’t think either Gandalf or Don’t Follow Don hear me.

“Your parents didn’t raise ya to be a wuss,” shouts Grandma #1. “Take command of the situation.”

“Just a second, now,” says Grandma #2, her voice slightly raised, “you have no right to call my grandson a wuss.”

“Listen ya old bitty,” snarls Grandma #1, “I call ‘em like I see ‘em, and your grandson’s actin’ like a wuss.”

“He’s your grandson, too, ya know!” semi shouts Grandma #2, working up a head of steam.

I’m tangled up, lost to the hubbub in my head, don’t mumble for any more course corrections. Sure enough, once we’re in the shipping channel, the current does push us a tad further south than we need to go.


Instead of going straight to the East Bros Lighthouse, we find ourselves south of the island, the West Bros Island in front of us. “Lookit that,” smirks Grandma #1, “swept off course ‘cause you didn’t take charge.”

By golly, she’s right. I gotta pay more attention to Grandma #1. “Now,” says Grandma #1, “tell Gandalf to steer the double on the outside of the island. If Don’t Follow Don wants to go on the inside, fight the current that’s there, let ‘im. We’ll see who gets to the lighthouse first.”

I channel Grandma #1, speak with maternal authority, cause Gandalf to navigate the double to the outside of the island. We paddle with abandon toward the East Bros Lighthouse, but …

“You didn’t paddle hard enough,” says Grandma #1. “I hate to say it, but you’re an embarrassment. Anyone else sitting where you are and the double woulda got to the lighthouse first.”

Before I can respond—I’m thinking of apologizing for being a disappointment, a wuss—Grandma #2 chimes in, says, “Cool your horses, ya old cow, let Johnny be. He’s doing the best he can.”

Grandma #1 is stunned, can’t say a word, caught by surprise she is by Grandma #2’s forceful exclamation. I’m not sure about “doing the best he can,” but don’t say anything, don’t wanna provoke any more harsh words, the silence in my head grand.

The ebb must like the silence in my head, too, ‘cause she lets go of our boats, acting like she’s not there, and we cruise around Pt. San Pablo to Pet Sematary Beach.

Gandalf slices apples, pears, tomatoes, and avocados on the beach for his green salad. That’s his style, prepping ingredients on the beach. Don’t Follow Don typically brings his garden fresh veggies already chopped or spiralized. 

Tonight, he follows Gandalf’s lead, chops his home harvest on the beach, then tosses the lot into a well oiled wok, salmon and haddock added for extra flavor.

I won’t go into any more detail other than to say salad and veggies are a Chez Panisse moment on Pet Sematary Beach.

Sun’s down a few minutes after 8 and we’re on the water an hour later. Ebb’s stronger now than earlier, but I don’t say anything. I might not be saying anything, but my Grandmas are back at it, bickering back and forth in my head.

Wind was mild on the paddle to Pet Sematary, but it’s picked up enough now to blow my hat off and tumble the old ladies’ words outa my head. 

A joyful wind.

Ebb? What ebb?


Date: Thurseve, 12 August 2021.

Distance: Seven point zero nautical miles.

Speed: One point five knots knots.

Time: Four point seven hours.

Spray factor: Ok.

Dessert: Lemon poppyseed ring cake topped with plum sauce.

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