I have owned boats for most of the time since I was 14. Except for very brief periods I have almost always had free or nearly free slips to keep my boats in. When you rely on the ''kindness of others'' (to quote Blanche DuBois), the so-called slips that are available are not always very desirable. In many cases, they were a bit shallow, or were just spots on docks not deemed to even be a slip without a bit of ingenuity, imagination and perhaps the addition of a pile or two.
Such was the spot that I was given to keep the first boat that I owned in Annapolis. The pier in question was ''Tee'' shaped and I was permitted to tie up between the end of the tee and the part of the pier that went back to shore. The boat in question was a fixed fin keel, C&C designed 22 foot daysailer, overnighter. She drew about 3 feet or so and the slip was deep enough for her once she was in but there was a small hump at the end of the tee that blocked me from getting in at low tide.
One day at very low tide I decided to do something about this hump. Using a pile jetting rig
and a bucket, I walked out to the hump and began blowing out pieces of the hump and putting them in the bucket to be carried ashore. For those of you who are not familiar with a pile-jetting rig
, the rig
consists of a gasoline engine driven portable fire pump
and a length of hose with long piece of galvanized pipe at the end. In this case the pipe was probably 16 feet or more in length.
So there I am up to my waist, or so, out in the creek and I look over to one side and see the water moving in this strange pattern and while I am looking I see this snake head rise a little and realize that I am looking at 4 feet or more ling snake. Without even thinking I turn the end of the pipe and blast the snake maybe 15 to 20 feet away.
I was new to the Chesapeake at the time and had not seen or heard of Chesapeake Bay''s black snakes. Nor had I heard of their strangely social behavior in mating season. Black snakes are quite big snakes but pretty docile and beneficial to the environment. Coming from Georgia at that point in my life, I had not heard of black snakes and in fact, I had been told that almost every snake that swims is venomous. Black snakes are not.
So after blowing the snake near back on to the beach. I watched to see what it would do and sure enough it came my way. I waited until the snake was just about in range and raised the pipe to blast it only the snake side stepped (so to speak) the end of the pipe and headed straight for me.
I dropped the pipe and ran for all I was worth out of the creek shouting "Sh*t Sh*t Sh*t", as the snake turned and seemed to follow me until I was safely ashore.
Once I was ashore I looked up to see Miss Liz and her two little girls picnicking at the top of the Bluff above where I was standing. It was through the kindness of Miss Liz and her husband Mike that my boat was tied up at the dock for free, and it was Mike''s pile rig
that I was using. Miss Liz was a very proper ''Christian'' and who went to great lengths to raise proper young ladies. I was sure that they must have heard my profane utterances as I ran from the creek.
I shut off the jet pump
and climbed up the Bluff to apologize. Miss Liz was up there wondering about why I had retreated from the creek so suddenly. I explained what happened and apologized for the profanity. Miss Liz was very gracious and said that is was perfectly OK since the jet pump
''s little gas engine was so noisy that they had not heard a word of what I said.
With that the four-year-old says, "Mom, I heard what he said." and then paused long enough that both Miss Liz and I looked nervously at her, as she said "He said, ''Snake, Snake, Snake''". And while that was not exactly what I had said it was sure close enough.