The Seventh Wave


“Folklore says that every seventh wave is bigger than the previous six, and there is some statistical evidence to back this up.”  Breverton’s Nautical Curiosities.

It’s a lumpy sea on the flood and the day brought all the troubles that come with twenty foot tides in Cook Inlet.  If the force of the wind increases by the square of its speed, well then, by my careful calculations, we are screwed.  We have two choices, to go or to stay.

Maritime wisdom suggests keeping a thumb’s width from danger as measured on a nautical chart.  If only it were that easy.  With no protected port, a sou’wester is a double-edged sword.  It often brings bounty.  It always brings hardship.  It can push the run inshore, but we have to launch straight into the storm to reap the reward.  It doesn’t matter whose thumb is used for the measure, today we are well within a digit of danger.

This season we are shorthanded but making the best of it.  Stormy days, we feel it most.  With our pared down crew, we decide to launch.  John drops the skiff in the surf, but before he can park Allis and the trailer, we are blown off the pullout line.  I can’t recall the last time we had a failure to launch.

We start over.  Trailer the skiff.  Bring it back to the line.  This time my cousin’s crew helps us hold steady in the surf waiting for the flat spot.  I don’t count to see if it comes after the seventh wave.  Folklore can’t help us now.

We hop in and pull our little skiff into the froth.  Waves break over the bow, soaking us before the outboard is even running, but we manage to get off the beach.

Sou’westers always bring hardship.  It’s time to see if this one brings a bounty.


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