The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

The Sounds of Shearwater

Don Chandler

Martin 32
August 23rd, 2018

I awoke this morning, not to the sound of the Eagles, but first to a wake rocking the boat, then the deep throated grumble of a big diesel right beside my pillow. It roared, grumbled, and roared again and again. I peeked out the window to see a barge full of explosive fuel tanks and a couple of containers drifting by and being stopped by the big roar. I listened from my pillow as it proceeded to drift away a length or two, then roar and rumble again as it turned and powered into the docking ramp. More engines and the containers were off loaded. I assume that was the groceries for the town for the week.

Back to sleep for a few minutes, then a rumble again. Then a roar and more rocking as the tug boat spun the big barge around to tie up to my dock. Yes, my dock. As it rafted to the other barge on the other side of my dock, it rumbled, roared, and clanged. After tying up it rumbled off to the fuel dock where it went quiet again for a moment.

Then another engine. This time the Helijet behind the fuel dock wound up, spun it’s rotors, warmed it’s turbos, and after a long while, rose the pitch to a screaming throb as it lifted into the sky, turned, lifted again and flew over my head, lifting it too from my pillow.

Before it actually lifted off, another engine purred between us, as a float plane taxied out to the bay. Then it went quiet for a moment before the float plane roared it engines to the maximum thrust and pushed half the water in the bay aside as it lumbered down the waterway and rose ever so slowly, just above the trees before banking around and making another pass at me before disappearing down Gunboat Passage at tree top level, as though it was hiding from the guns I wished were still there with open season on noise.

As the bay cleared of heavy equipment, a sailboat with a smaller sailboat strapped to its side, putted by me to haul out at the boat yard. As it disappeared behind the trees, it went quiet for a few moments before I heard the putt putt sound of the dinghy motor, after five pulls to start it. It headed off to the main dock, with shower towels in hand and likely a grocery list to be first in line for the store’s noon opening.

The genset on the small powerboat behind me started up again to run the refrigeration and air conditioning for a half hour, the owner has a loud phone call and finally it unties. I wave good-bye and say “enjoy the quiet”. He doesn’t hear me as he cups his hands behind his ears and shakes his head.

Finally I begin to hear the ravens calling as a couple of small speed boats slip past. Next is the anchor chain from the small sailboat out in the bay as they drift around. The tug starts his engine again at the fuel dock and idles for some time. The birds scream continuously now, the smaller ones just barely audible in the trees as the tug revs his engine preparing to leave.

I glance past the heliport at the big digger, building the road and wonder what time it will start up. The tug is rumbling and moving away now as it heads back to its dock, which the 35 fish boats vacated yesterday. It ties up as another speedboat idles away from the fuel dock. The ravens call.

Rattles come from the boat tied behind me, making breakfast I presume. Now I can hear the small computer fan in our boat as it keeps the fresh air moving through. Interrupted only by another speedboat returning to dock.  I watch as another log floats by, lifted off the shore last night on the 16 foot King tide. As it floats barely above the surface I wonder if the gulls will convene on it before it drifts away.

Before it can move a log’s length, the Travelift diesel comes to life and another small powerboat heads in while the last one guns it’s outboard to head out. The sailboat behind me has finished breakfast and I hear the diesel fire up; it’s leaving and I’ll be almost alone on the dock, except for the other BCA boat that loaned me a small strap wrench last night. Best I try it out now on the oil filter that is painted on to the new engine, change the oil and go find a quiet anchorage. The noise has been non-stop for 3 hours since 6:00 am. The sun is keeping my coffee hot as the day heats up with cloudless skies and another small boat pushes water from it’s engine. Soon the wake will rock the boat as I reach for another fresh muffin.

Good morning; coffee is ready.

Photo Credit: Mike Wigle, Michael Wigle Photography


  1. Ricky says:

    Hey Don, loved the in depth detail of your perceptive ears. Can’t help but think how lucky you are to still bare witness to whats going on around you with all your senses.

    Hoping you found the Ravens song and some solitude somewhere along that coast😉


  2. Yvonne Harwood says:

    Not only interesting but well written too….. Thank you.
    s.v. Ostara.

  3. Gordon Clay says:

    Sounds like a typical day on the water on the coast. It is a rare time if you wake up and it is quiet. But when it does – celebrate by just enjoying the utter silence!

  4. Ronald Roe says:

    Love the descriptions, Don! Almost like I was there. Wait, I WAS there. Shearwater has always been a great stop for me. Marine services hustle and bustle reminds one that Shearwater has a valuable place in our boating life, but only for a brief period before we go off exploring remoter destinations.

  5. Urs Boxler says:

    Very well written. I enjoyed reading this story. It brought back memories of our coastal cruising on Raven Song for many years.

    Happy cruising

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