Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Thorns of Prince Head

An incident from the eighties

We made an oddly assorted crew that day. My father was captain and crew was whoever was around and wanted to go for a sail in the 28’ ketch Nave Sho. My sister MaryJo was along as well as our brother Steve’s two older kids Brendan and Faith, both under thirteen at the time.
It was a fine afternoon and the wind was light so we wouldn’t be going too far, but we towed the tender behind which meant we could land on an island if we pleased. We sailed past Bumpkin Island and made our way across Hingham Bay towards Peddocks. On the chart Peddocks Island looks like a one legged ant, the single leg being Prince Head, which is attached to the main island by a narrow spit of tide-wracked stones and seagull feathers. The further end of the head is a low drumlin, a quarter mile long and 150 feet across. This drumlin or glacial hill slopes gently on its ends but its sides have eroded over the millennia, exposing ribbed cliffs of pale yellow clay.
We dropped anchor in the lee of Prince Head and ate lunch. Though we were within a 10 mile radius of millions, we could just as well have been way up in Maine for the remoteness felt there. Dad said he was going to rest his eyes awhile so the rest of us rowed ashore. “Let’s climb the cliff,” someone suggested. The cliff sides were steep but climbable. As we went up, the stone studded clay tended to crumble away under our feet. MaryJo and I each got behind a kid and pushed them up. It was fun going. There was a thick ridge of grass overhanging the top and we pulled on this to get ourselves onto the top. The top was a jungle of tall sumac trees and black raspberry bushes. The berries were ripe and delicious and we all ate our fill. We returned to the edge but the prospect now was forbidding. I tried hanging over the edge and my feet dislodged clay and small stones which clattered on the boulders twenty feet below. I might be able to slither down without killing myself but what about the others?
I pulled myself back up and said, “Let’s walk down the end of the island.” We headed the way I thought would be shorter. The blackberry brambles tore at us and I was the only one wearing long pants. “Let’s try the other way.” But only a rabbit could have navigated that tangle of brambles and sumac. We turned back the other way again. I looked down the cliff once more and out at the boat rocking dad asleep.
“We can’t go down the cliff,” I said. We forced our way through the not so bad patch. I stomped down the brambles to make a path and MaryJo tried to keep the thorns away from Brendan and Faith. By the time we climbed aboard the Nave Sho the blood from our scratches had dried. Dad listened to our story. “You had a little adventure while I was sleeping,” he chuckled.

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