Saturday Evening Post illustration

Pea-Green Boat

When it was my turn I quoted Ernest Hemingway: “Anyone who goes on the sea the year around in a small boat…does not seek danger. You may be absolutely sure that in a year you will have it without seeking it, so you always try to avoid it all you can.” And then I told the story of nearly drowning in a Pacific bay fifteen years before, and the local baymen in their boats who rescued us.

“Wouldn’t it be funny,” she said, “if that boat never existed truly. “Or if the men on them had been dead and gone for years…”

Pea-Green Boat

It was February when I finally went back to Bay Point on the Washington State coast. I felt my neck and shoulders tighten when I drove through the logging town of Raymond where high stacks of bruised Douglas fir trunks, soaked black in the constant rain, waited shipment to Japan. Getting close now; it felt like returning to the scene of a crime. But my only crime that day had been stupidity.

“You ain’t from around here, are you?” Nasal challenge, like a B-Grade Western from my childhood.

The bartender slammed her cash register drawer, hard. It jerked me back to the present.

“The tide will do that.” My companion was behind the bar, helping himself to another longneck. He offered me another.

My companion at the bar heaved a sigh. “But you don’t know his name? Anything about him?”

“Just down the street,” the big man said. It was getting dark fast. “You’ll be wondering about Molly,” he added. “Her kids hunted them islands. A long time ago now. They was thirteen and sixteen years old when their dad left ’em out there, and went off around the point. Fishing was good back then and he didn’t want to miss a beat. He had a long way to go, but he always thought he was tougher than the ocean. Always pushed it. But that day he didn’t make it back to them islands in time.”

Saturday Evening Post illustration

“We don’t paint boats green anymore around here. It ain’t lucky. And this one has been right here in this yard for over thirty goddamned years…”

Home and safe after a near-disaster prevented by the baymen of Bay Center, which germinated for years before a chance remark led to a ghost story.
The story led a short-story collection published this century by





Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.

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Bill Burkett

Bill Burkett

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.

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