Sandbars Happen… was published in the April 2010 edition of Lattitudes and Attitudes magazine


Sandbars Happen…



          Almost every family excursion I can recall in the last 42 years has turned into some kind of unplanned “adventure” that has left someone red-faced at it’s re-telling.

          Ruptured water lines, mis-aimed lawn darts, 30 mile trips to the hardware store…or to the Emergency Department…  Why then should it surprise me that the Clark’s would have one more story in them?

          Sitting at my parents’ kitchen table in Narragansett, Rhode Island–having just flown in from San Antonio, Texas for a weeks vacation– we were discussing things that needed to be done while I was home.

          As we went down the list, my Mother, gracefully sidestepping into her seventh decade suggested, “There is one other thing…while you’re home…there’s this little place down the road where you can rent ocean kayaks…”

          Can you read the writing?

          I visited the shop at Narrow River Kayaks and they were quite helpful about the hows and whats of kayaking in the Pettaquamscutt Watershed Area, the John Chafee Wildlife refuge, or out on Narrgansett Bay.  With my Dad’s blessing, Mom and I rented a tandem ocean kayak for the ridiculously long time of  a “2 hour minimum”.  We were only doing a short jaunt down Narrow River, not a trip on the SS Minnow.

          Now outfitted in our PFDs (personal floatation devices), and with the young mans instructions on the correct way to paddle a kayak—Please— we decided to head up the river to the Chaffee Wildlife Preserve and drift back with the tide.**

          **Narragansett Pier tides are posted on the wall of the shack at Narrow River Kayaks.  Under it (I guess) it said, “Narrow River tides are two and a half hours different then Naragansett Pier”.

          I’ve gotta take all the credit for this story.

          With Mom in front and me in back, my visions of sculls gliding effortlessly on the Charles River in Boston were quickly dispelled as I tried to find the rythym in my strokes.

          As we headed toward the shack on Narrow River, we passed a seagull sunning on the very exposed bank of the estuary.  Mom commented, under her breath, that “the water sure has receeded quickly”.

          We passed the old shack and, at the fork to port that opened into Narragansett Bay, we decided to stay to starboard and head up to see the preserve versus experiencing two foot chop on our first kayak trip.

          We were commenting on the peace and quiet and the different colors and clarity of the water—you could see the bottom—just as we hit.

          I poled us over the sand with the paddle and we slid past..for 10 to 15 feet…until we grounded out.

          The small waves lifted us over the second time and we were past that channel and into deeper water.  We both made visual note of the sandbar to steer clear on the way back.

          For the next 30 minutes we enjoyed the weather, the birds, and the green expanse of the shore before heading back.

          We steered well to the right of the sandbar we had hit earlier and tried to watch the changing water color heading toward the deeper part of the channel.

          History lesson.  Marvin Creamer was a Geography Professor who retired in the 1970’s to make an almost 4,000 mile ocean voyage around the world, using only his  dead reckoning as navigation.  He used his knowledge of wave pattern, sea life and water color as his guides…and he arrived only100 miles or so from his intended port.

          There is no danger of him being any familial relation.

          As the kayak bumped to a stop I got out and steadied it as Mom moved to the rear seat.  I lifted the bow to fjord the sandbar as I sank almost to mid-shin and the muck on the bottom took possesion of my Crock!

          Now barefoot,  with visions of horseshoe crab spines everywhere, I gingerly (6′ 2” and 240 lbs.) guided/floated the kayak and my Mom over a mile or so (15-20 feet) of bottom silt and back into the ocean/marina channel.  I could see people sitting on their porches drinking coffee and I just knew this was why they lived there!

          One of the young guides from the rental place glided swiftly by on our starboard side, coming in from the Bay, “Such a nice day for this.  You okay?  See you back at the marina.”

          “Douglas”, I heard as I grabbed the paddle like a bat.

          “I wasn’t gonna hit him…hard.”

          Right at the two hour rental mark we glided (struggled acrossed the current) back into the marina.  Wet clothes, exhausted expressions, and triumphant feelings of ‘No Regrets’, as we added one more adventure to our list.

          As Mom re-told the story that night I played Eric Stone’s sentiments for them; “If you ain’t been aground, then you ain’t been around…”

          Three weeks later, back in San Antonio, a package arrived with a Narragansett return address.  With the typical dry, tongue-in-cheek, Yankee sense of humor, my Mom had sent a grey t-shirt with black letters reading, “Sandbars Happen”. 

          She got the last word…again…