Quicksand

Ert sloshes through the water from boat to shore arms out, at speed, huge grin on his face.

It’s tradition that anybody who’s leaving soon gets to declare the agenda for their last day. This is Ert’s last full day, so I’m glad he’s having fun.

He grabs his coat from my arms and sloshes quickly back to the boat. This leaves my hands free to tug at the tops of my Xtratuf boots.

I’m well and truly stuck in mud. So is the boat.

The adventure of the day was out to Soapstone Cove, right at the end of protected Lisianski Inlet.

We tied up the boat with two bow lines to opposite shores, suspending it in the deepest part. Then we hiked across the neck of land to the ocean.

When we came back to the boat, the tide had gone out. Our boat was still nicely tied in the middle of the water, but the water was too low to float it.

You could even walk out to the boat, it was so shallow.

Ert and Rick sloshed out to the boat and shoved on it, but it didn’t move.

“All hands!” Called Ert.

I picked up the drybags and Ert’s coat, started into the water then hesitated. “Really, it won’t go over my boots?”

“Come on!”

But I can’t lift my foot. In the time it took me to hesitate, I sunk into the mud.

I put my weight on my left foot to lift my right, but my left sinks. So I tug on my left, but the right sinks. Pretty soon, only one inch of my fifteen-inch rubber boots is above the mud.

“Help!” I call. “I need help!”

It occurs to me that I could sit back on my rainpants, but I don’t want to until really desperate. My feet aren’t quite wet yet.

Dana finds a rusty wheel on the beach.

“Here!” She ambles over, plops it down in front of me, retreats to solid ground. “This will save you.”

I position the wheel in front of me, press down. Bare hands press into rust, pressing into mud. But it has enough surface area to hold.

Mud oozes at the very tops of my boots, but I begin to make progress. Leaning on the wheel, I extract one leg, then the other, and retreat to shore.

Ert waves me over. “You just have to move fast!” He demonstrates, runs a few sloshing steps on the sinking mud. So I brace, then quick-step out to the boat. He’s right, but you can’t hold still. I put my weight on the mired boat.

Behind me, Rob has quietly sunk in deeper than I was. He’s over his boots, then up to his knees, then mid-thigh.

Dana gets the wheel for him, but he’s in too deep. Gautam goes to help, but falls back onto his rainpants. There’s talk of losing a boot. Somehow, he is extracted from the muck.

We all get out to the boat. We shove, but it doesn’t get anywhere. Ert tries throwing the anchor and pulling on it, but it doesn’t move us.

“Okay, everybody out of the boat, make it lighter, and then Gautam and Rob push because they’re already wet.”

We all exchange dubious glances. Nobody wants to go back to the shore across the mud. The other option is to wait half an hour for the boat to float. But Rob and Gautam are pretty wet, so sitting around isn’t a good option anymore.

One by one, we acquiesce. Ert runs ashore, then me, then Dana. Gautam and Rob get into the water and push, while Rick steers, poling with an oar.

The boat moves. Slowly, wetly, the three of them slip the boat into deeper mud-water. As it gets deeper, Rob and Gautam hop on.

Ert, Dana, and I find a steep part of the shore, outside of the cove, and wait for pickup. I skipper us home.

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