It was 8.30 a.m. when I arrived at the MV Alert, a nasty gray morning that held the promise of a quickly brewing storm. There were six of us at the beginning, huddled against the wind on the splintery wooden bench outside the office, but the two single day-tripping hikers quickly decided to take Captain Ray’s advice and “Come back on a better day.”
That left me, Mary Sarmento, and Jack and Gladys Ashworth. The youngest of them had a good fifty years on me.
Brad still owned the Alert then, but Ray ran it most days, and would be running it that day, if he decided to run.
He wasn’t sure. It might be too rough.
He had a mail run, but it could wait a day. Could we?
Jack and Gladys conferred for a moment, and announced they could wait. Linda called a taxi to take them to wherever they’d come from for another night.
Mary said she thought the ride would be just fine. But then, she’d gone from one island to the next in an open boat for 40 years.
You’d think I would learn, eventually. If the captain doesn’t really want to go out on the water, should you?
It’s not as though I like the sea, or boats, on calm and sunny days. I have the stomach of a two-year old who has overdone it on cotton candy at the county fair.
But even then, just a few years into the job, the transformation had begun. I was becoming one with the big grey building with the red roof. I was the Allen House.
And whatever was happening, if it was happening between February and October it couldn’t happen without me. Obviously.
Mary settled into the tiny cabin with her knitting. I went up with Captain Ray, knowing the diesel fumes and heat in the enclosed cabin would sicken me in an instant. Ray opened the doors on both sides, then gave me a pair of bright yellow oilskins to wear for protection against the wind and spray.
We cast off and headed out into Buzzard’s Bay.
The boat had barely cleared the harbor when it became evident the sea was much rougher than even Ray had surmised. He looked down at me, perched in the middle of the seat, uneasily clutching a paper bag to heave into, already wet from the waves lashing the boat.
“Are you sure you want to go?” he asked.
The radio squawked to life. Ray listened a moment to what was, to me, unintelligible gibberish. He turned back to me.
“Well, too late now,” he answered his own question. “They just closed the hurricane gates.”
What’s your worst, or best memory of the old Alert? Or any ferry to a remote summer spot? Leave me your story in the comment box.