“Yellow Boat, Red Oars”

You have to be ready for anything when you paint plein air.

In my quest for more boat, boat of any kind, boat large, boat small, anything that floats, is drydocked, or run aground, I asked my father to help me. Dad lives on a boat in the Monterey harbor in Monterey, California. You’re thinking yacht, aren’t you? Ol’ Dad lounging on deck with his G&T and some California girl at the helm, sailor hat tipped down over one eye winkin’ at you. Uh, not quite. Now downsize that image to something the size of a camper on a pickup truck, and the girl is his cat, Felix. That’s were Dad’s lived for more than twenty years, not always on this boat, but on a series of small boats that, one by one, went to Davey Jones’ locker or broke loose in a storm, broke up on the rocks or went aground on the beach miles away. It’s a hardy life, but it has its charms.

Rowing his little skiff out to his boat, which is moored out in the harbor, takes one from the touristy atmosphere of Fisherman’s Wharf, where people walk about in a daze having just eaten too much and have only one thought: what now? Dad docks his little skiff in the secure area of the wharf where you need a key to get in and get to your boat. His harbor fees give him access to many harbor-ish things, such as the marina, the skiff dock, a bike locker, and the private restrooms and showers. No tourists allowed. And you can see the tourists looking down at you from the wharf as you pull away and row out into the harbor, a sort of wistful look on their faces as they admire the local color, the wharf rats who actually live in the harbor on a boat. But don’t feel sorry for them, in another minute they’ll be thinking about the next meal.

As I was saying, living in the harbor has its charms. The little voyage from the wharf to the boat is a world away from the wharf and its nonsense. You are isolated from the frenetic world, insulated by an expanse of sparkling water, tucked in and hidden among little sailboats and accompanied by sea otter and harbor seal. The world is quite beautiful from that distance.

Anyway, Dad had the key and I had the vision, and my vision was to paint one of the skiffs or dinghies. Just inside the security door of the private dock wharf I found this yellow boat. I grumbled that the owner would probably come get it as soon as I started painting it, but Dad said he didn’t think so since the owner owns that lovely hand-built rig out there, the one that never gets sailed. I was safe to paint the skiff. He has the Harbor Knowledge.

Remember, I started this out saying that you have to be ready for anything when you paint plein air. Had I thought about this beforehand I would have known in advance, but the fact that the wharf moves was a surprise. Perhaps it isn’t as bad as this, but there was a moment there that I could close my eyes and imagine that I had set up my easel in the back of a pickup truck that was going down a country road at about 10 miles per hour. For the most part this didn’t matter. But why, I asked myself, did the wharf suddenly jerk from a wave every single time I tried to do a steady stroke. Was I being tested? If it was a test, I leave to my reader to decide if I passed the test.

Posted via email from Robert Lewis’ Sketchbook

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