THE FIRST CHASE


One day Mr. Mallard decided he’d like to take a trip to see what the rest of the river was like, further on. So off he set.


—Robert McCloskey, Make Way for Ducklings

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Outside the solarium, in the open air, backpackers are pitching their tents, duct-taping them down so that the wind won’t toss them overboard. Soon a rustling nylon village of colorful domes has sprung up. “Tent city,” the veteran ferry riders call it. The evening is cool and exhilarating, the sky clear save for a distant, flat-bottomed macaroon of a cloud from which a tendril of vapor rises and coils. The wavelets on Bellingham Bay are intricate as houndstooth, complicated by cross-breezes and by ripples radiating from the hulls of anchored boats.

    At last the ferry’s diesel engines rumble to life. I am going to sea! Who can resist an embarkation? The thrill of watery beginnings? The dock falls away. On the forested hills of Bellingham, the houses face the harbor. How festive the ferry must look from up there! As the ship turns and slithers toward the horizon, the low sun moves across the windows of the town, igniting them one by one. I stand at the taffrail and think to myself taffrail, enjoying the reunion of a thing and its word.


—”The First Chase: Inside Passage”