Thursday, 17 March 2011

Knee-Deep in Dogma

Some time I ago I found a bottle with a message in it on the beach after a blow. This happens more frequently than you might guess; I've got a large campground north of me and an even larger vacation house development to the south. People on holiday like to put messages in bottles.

But surf is a dogmatic mind, and almost always spits the offering right back into the launcher's footprints.  Which is what happened this time, as I learned when I emailed the address it bore.

The bottle was crammed with folded paper, and one dried rose. I didn't open it, because a note visible from outside advised the finder to email its position and toss it back. Since I found it very near the campground, I suspected it hadn't got far, and my suspicions were confirmed by the response I received. This read in part:

(My wife) and I were married just this 1.11.11 at 11:11, a crystal clear cold but beautiful day, under the canopy of plum trees at Seattle's Volunteer Park. We invited all the wedding party to post their own hopes dreams and wishes into the bottle. We then enjoyed a walk along Alki beach to throw the bottle but the current was not right. (We) headed to Golden Gardens Park... again wrong tide.  We sent off the bottle with parents going to the ocean. It was tossed this weekend into the ocean.

Hmmm. I have long experience with drift bottles, and told my new friend I'd give this one the benefit of same. First I threw it in the river; sometimes that will get it past the surf. The next day I found it right back where I'd been standing. It was time to stop playing around.

The best way to lodge a bottle in the grey Pacific is to give it to an outbound fisherman and have him dump it overboard when he reaches the horizon. Unfortunately the nearest fishing terminal is quite a distance away and I had no foreseeable plans to travel that far in that direction.

So I took up my stick and humped the bottle out to Damon Point. This long, low spit of sand stands well into the harbour's throat, where it confronts open ocean swell to the southeast and shelters still bay water to the northwest. On a stormy, rain-soaked winter Monday I slogged its two miles of soft sand to the end, to the mighty pushing and shoving of colliding seas.

With an east wind at my back, on steep shingle beach and a turning tide, I pitched the bottle over a single line of surf. And it came right back. So I pitched it again. And left.

I got soaked to the skin in the process, and caked with grit. That's how I know the job was done.

The bottle probably came right back, but that's OK; from Damon Point it will soon be sucked out to sea. It's the best beachcombing in the county; but for a hundred feet of sand, you could be adrift on a raft in the middle of the harbour's mouth. Any wind save a true NNW will sweep anything off that beach, and the entire contents of Gray's Harbour busting back into the main will drive it away for good.

And if it comes back again, by God, I'll drive to Taholah. The Tribe'll get it done, you may count upon it.
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