The Marine View Driver: Boating, Beach Life and Wild Dreams


Wherein the author enters the way-back machine.

By Mike Smith

This has been a superb April! So far we’ve had higher than normal temperatures and a couple of record-breakers last week.

In times like this that I start thinking how much fun it would be to own a boat. Well, let me rephrase that: I think about how it might be fun to own a boat.

speedboatI have a few fond memories of boating on Puget Sound and of beach life. One time in particular one of my friends, Robert (first names only for beach bums) of Redondo, took me on a speedboat cruise from Redondo to Des Moines and back. The water was smooth as glass, a phrase I’ve heard a lot but have trouble thinking is accurate. After all, glass is almost perfectly flat and does not respond well to curvacious hull breaches. Whereas Puget Sound water is nothing but glorious to look at when “smooth as glass,” but gives way as said hull glides smoothly through the water, cutting a nice and shapely triangle.

Another reason the comparison is weak is that if  you were to drive your car on glass, or run your hand on glass, it really is smooth. Being in a boat while running across smooth-as-glass water is not really all that smooth a ride. Not to be picky but there are some bumps. Bumps that are made even more pronounced as to their being unexpected.

But I still like riding in boats. On the aforementioned trip, we had a fairly uneventfully “smooth” glide from Redondo to Des Moines. We bought some fuel and a few knick-knacks for the boat and returned home. By golly, as we began to head south the water began to resemble the Cascades. What one might say, choppy. My driver… er, pilot… thought it best to skedaddle home to Redondo at speeds that seemed a bit inappropriate even for road conditions. It was here that I discovered that the seats in a speed boat operating at its defined parameters—speeding—act more as catcher’s mitts than comfortable nesting areas. I tried sitting but was immediately launched into the air. I mean I was nearly thrown from the boat. As I rose from my former seat, the thought occurred to me that my friend may not find it convenient to come back for me were I tossed aside as so much excess ballast. Human bilge-water was sort of my mental condition. So I grabbed at what was handy and kept most of my form in the boat. I got the lower part of my leg in the water but all-in-all, I was never really in danger. I was caught by the vinyl catcher’s’ mitt of a seat.

I decided to stand and “navigate.”

Throughout the trip my inner-Walt Whitman was churning…

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Needless to say, we made it back okay. But, that was the last time I rode with him. That last couplet was burning in my O heart, heart, heart.

But, I am a man of peace.wave runner

Later that summer another friend of mine let me borrow his Wave-Runner for a day. Whoo-boy, that was fun. Even when you fall off, the boat comes back to you. Now, that is my kind of aquatic vessel!

I spent a lot of time at Redondo Beach. I even worked at the restaurant that was there before it became Salty’s. Beach bumming was becoming a real thing to me. I was considering renting a beach shack in town near the beach. Of course I was only a kid and couldn’t, but you know how real a fantasy can seem when you are seventeen.

That was also the year I got my picture in the paper as one of the painters of the roof-top advertisement for the restaurant. I painted “Paul’s Dock” in big four-foot tall letters on the north and south slopes of the roof. The idea was that boaters and seaplane pilots could see us and come in for dinner. I don’t know if it worked but my mom liked the picture.

There really wasn’t any dock facility adjacent to the building, either, but wouldn’t that have been exciting?

That whole Spring and Summer I contemplated the beach life. Imagine my reverie when I was even offered a job in Hawaii by a visitor from there who was eating at the restaurant. Apparently my enthusiasm for pouring his coffee and cleaning up his spilled pie were intoxicating to this Hawaiian restaurant owner. He mentioned that it was hard to find reliable workers at the time in Hawaii and he was willing to hire me if I could get to Hawaii. Might have been fun. Might have completely changed my life. Might I never have come back? Could my fantasy life actually be coming true in a dramatic way?

Might Robert be able to take me there in his speedboat?

Seventeen and yet a tad bit reasonable.

That boat ride was scary-memorable.

I love Des Moines.


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