Andrew Buckley: On Even The Best Laid Plans

I had rowed out the night before, in the moonlight, into a nearly empty Oyster Pond. November light is so very different, as the last of the leaves have fallen and the shores are almost luminously brown dusted with gold and rust. Not that I could have seen that in the dark. But I did see a fair amount. The lights of the few remaining occupied houses ringing the pond, the streetlights down at the beach on Stage Harbor Road. And the dappled shine of the moon on the water.

The Chris Craft was ready to be brought in. The weather was due to change. Overdue. Temperatures were set to drop considerably after rain on Tuesday night, and I wasn’t keen on any water freezing aboard the boat or to weaken the batteries so the bilge pump stopped working.

So after I climbed aboard and under the canvas over the helm, I started the engine. As always, no problem. Started right up. While I let it run for 20 minutes, I checked on everything else inside. The trip down the river in the morning should have no surprises.

And it didn’t.

Tuesday morning it was warm, too warm for the hoodie and raincoat I had brought because of the possibility of rain. The dinghy was right where I left it on the shore. I pushed out again, 12 hours after I had done so. No issues. Yes, it was breezy, but I got on board well enough, and the engine started right up again. I took down the canvas cover, stowed it below, pulled the mooring line to the stern, put the engine in gear and cast off.

With two hours to low, I didn’t need to worry much about running aground in the river. Not many boats still in the water, so as things narrowed, I didn’t have to take too much care as I proceeded against the tide and the southwesterly. When current and winds are against you, the going is slower but you have more control.

At the end of Barn Hill, Randy caught the bow as I approached the dock and tied off a cleat midships. I turned off the engine and with half an hour until the boat hauler came, we untied the dinghy that had trailed me down the river and got her over to the truck. Then Randy suggested I let the engine run until we needed to move the boat to the ramp.

Click, beep. Click, beep.

Not starting. We tried a few times. Finally it turned over, but the batteries—all three—were nearly dead. Somehow.

Randy hopped in his truck and very shortly returned with a battery charger. Soon after the engine started and we left it going. The hauler arrived, backed down the ramp and Randy maneuvered the Chris Craft onto the trailer while I held a bowline to keep the stern from swinging sideways in the breeze and current.

Driving ahead to show the truck driver where to go, we came up to the intersection with Route 28 in West Chatham. There was a construction detail across from Dunkin Donuts, with the westbound lane blocked off. The Chris Craft is 28 feet long, with the trailer it was even longer. And I wondered about that turn.

I wondered about that turn when the proposed roundabout goes in. One very big trailer, going counterclockwise around a roundabout—which is smaller in diameter than a rotary—except another large truck is headed eastbound into town. And it is July. And it’s raining.

The change of the configuration of Route 28 in West Chatham was always ill-advised, as was affirmed by the voters themselves. With each delay, the town has been given a chance of reprieve. The most recent mis-installation of gas lines, which was not news to anyone paying attention, is the most recent example. Yet the selectmen continue headlong on this course.

Were this the only concern regarding the town of Chatham’s capital projects, it could be overlooked. Much like that one crucial time the battery ran out of power. However, with the debacle of the fish pier observation deck reconstruction, with delay heaped upon delay, it seems high time to consider that there is a fundamental breakdown in the public process.

In short, we used to be able to build things here. But now things are not getting done while costs balloon. The public is not only not seeing any benefit, we are being inconvenienced with no end in sight. And yet more projects are proposed as if everything is fine.

We did manage to the get the boat into the yard, safe and sound, much to the credit of the truck driver. Just about when I was going to power wash the bottom, it started to rain. Then temperatures dropped from 60 to 25 degrees. Change of plans. The garden hose would freeze.

Change of plans. And for the best.