A Bat Hunt and Other Adventures With Hughie Essay

A St. Lawrence Skiff is a rowing vessel between 18 and 22 feet long, about 4 feet wide in the middle and pointed on both ends. It weighs at least a couple of hundred pounds and is the perfect rowing craft for the strong currents and choppy water found in the 1000 Islands. Hughie had told me about their double-oared skiff called Helen during lunch at the picnic table. Following our softball game a few days after the fishing marathon, Hughie suggested that we take a row to town to load up on candy and see the sights.

The next morning – or maybe it was two mornings later – Hughie and I set out in the Helen to assert our independence. I remember kidding with Hughie about, “We don’t need no doggone motorboat to cruise the river.” We may have even made up a little song around this theme. Fact or fiction, I have no clear recollection of it now.

I was a captive to Dad’s schedule, and I had no way to come and go when I pleased. The Bobby project was languishing, as I was too busy playing with the Papworths to complete the work that still needed to be done. I figured rowing to town in the Helen would be a good trial run to see how to go about maneuvering a skiff to a chosen destination. With Hughie to show me the ropes, I felt this would be a great learning opportunity.

I recall the whole fiasco vividly. Hughie and I started out by rowing up the back channel to get the feel of coordinating the stroking motion in unison. What “unison,” I thought to myself. We clashed oars repeatedly, and eventually splashed our way to the Upper Town Dock. The fact that we climbed ashore without falling into the water was a major accomplishment. The skiff is far more substantial and stable than a canoe, but they do tip and bob from side to side. I’ve had occa…

…e hardware store. As we approached the dock, he said something like, “Step lively boys and man those lines.”We were instructed to wait in the boat, which was fine by me. I sat back in our tub of a launch in one of the somewhat decrepit wicker chairs and soaked up a little sunshine, as I chatted with Hughie. I recall watching several islanders going down the dock with personalized leather mail pouches heading to the post office. I watched some folks enter the market near the dock and the pharmacy at the end of the block.We were close to end of the dock nearest the street. A gray lean-to with a corrugated metal covering and no walls was located at the edge of the seawall and it met the dock at a right angle. This was a bait concession stand with two tanks filled with minnows. Several fishermen came and purchased bait while we waited for Grandpa Papworth’s return.

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