It’s Monday, and I called in sick. I’ve had a cough for the past couple of days, and had a hard time sleeping last night. I might have come down with a cold, or it could be from hanging out with a dozen chain-smoking fishermen for a couple of days over the Fourth (which, if that was the price, was worth it).
I left Cleveland yesterday, July 8, about 8 a.m. I spent the night there at the Riverside Rowing Facility, a big warehouse on a reclaimed industrial site about a mile up the Cuyahoga (Crooked) River. No one was there when I landed on the long, low dock, and I eventually looked up the phone number for the place. Left a message with the director requesting a place to hang my hammock, but never heard back. Since asking permission didn’t work, I figured I’d ask for forgiveness later. As the burning afternoon sun melted into the skyline above me, I watched a couple of lakers, the Cuyahoga and American Courage, eel their way up the river. They had to negotiate a very tight S-curve along the river where I was, but they took great care not to crush Seaweed against the seawall. Around midnight, I was awakened by a tug pulling the Cuyahoga, still pointed up river, back downriver. About 4 a.m., the American Courage came backing down, too, but under her own power.
I rolled out of the hammock about 6:30 a.m., just as a fit young woman rolled up one of the big warehouse doors and carried out one of those impossibly skinny rowing shells. Other rowers started to arrive, and I presented my lodging explanation to a couple of guys putting oars on a tandem shell. They said I did the right thing in waiting to ask for forgiveness.
I quickly loaded Seaweed, and pushed off into the brown, trash filled river. A highway bridge arched high me, cars unseen. Abandoned grime-black railroad bridges were covered with ivy. I turned right at the mouth of the river, and headed past large, empty piers. The week’s worth of forecasted headwinds were arriving, and I pulled into one of the massive slips to have a quick breakfast of water and mixed nuts. Then out a quarter mile into the lake to paddle along the four-mile stone break wall that parallels the city. By the time I reached the end of the break wall, the swells were in the four-foot neighborhood, and I headed for a cove.
There were several boat ramps and a picnic area, so I tied up and took the lunch bag over a to a picnic table. I stayed a couple of hours, waiting for the wind to settle down. As I was getting ready to leave, I went into the restroom to fill up my water bag. When I came out, a tow boat was dragging a power boat that I had seen leave the ramp with couple of guys, a woman, and two kids, shortly after I arrived.
One of the guys was still standing in the boat, which was riding very low in the water, and rest were in the tow boat. Just as they neared the dock, the stern went under, the guy in the boat swam away, and all that was left above water was the bow. Coolers, seat cushions and assorted containers floated away. I got in the canoe and paddled out to salvage what I could. I talked with the boat owner, and he told me their engine conked out, and waves forced the boat against the rock entrance to the cove, punching a hole in the hull. We talked about the wind and waves, and as he looked down at me from the dock, he told me I had a lot of work ahead of me. I looked at his boat, barely bobbing, and said, “Looks like you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you too.”