The west wind came up at 2:49 a.m. A huge gust shook the cottage and the windows creaked like they might shatter into pieces. Instantly, we were both awake. It was very dark and looking out into the blackness of the howling wind was eerie. We heard the rush of wind in the pines above. Huge branches moaned as they moved in the wind. I could hear the waves crashing on the rocks below our bedroom window.
We both tried to go back to sleep, but the cottage creaked with every gust and I swear the cottage was swaying. I felt I was on a huge wooden ship in the middle of turbulent seas. I thought about our boats, both big and little, and wondered if the water had come up with the wind and if our boats were safely moored at the dock or in the boathouse.
It started to get light around 4:30 a.m. This only made me more restless, for when I looked out, I now could see the pine limbs thrashing about in the wind and I could see rows of waves flowing past me like advancing lines of infantry.
Later that afternoon, after the wind calmed down, a neighbor returned in his Whaler from a trip to the east end of Eel Bay. He couldn’t wait to show us what he’d found. After a strong west wind, who knows what you might find at the end of Eel Bay: bumpers, rafts, noodles, water guns, exercise balls, ball caps, basically anything that will float. It was, as our neighbor called it, the “Free Outdoor Marine Store.”
I’ve still never visited the Free Outdoor Marine Store’s Eel Bay Outlet. Of course, the Free Outdoor Marine Store isn’t limited to the end of Eel Bay. Sometimes, the F.O.M.S. makes home deliveries. Through the years, we’ve found things washed up on our north rock. Once a huge empty dock container, complete with lid, washed ashore. Another time, a cover for a jet ski. I always check with the cottagers on the north shore of the island, to make sure my special delivery from the Free Outdoor Marine Store didn’t belong to them. Sometimes there is a name and a phone number on the item. If there is, the person is called and told where they can retrieve their errant item.
We found an odd F.O.M.S. item this year in our boathouse, floating between the boat and the dock. It was a nice 12 ft. 2” x 10” piece of pressure treated wood. Luckily, no one hit that with a boat in the middle of the night. I’m still trying to figure out how something like that came floating into our boathouse. The River flows away from our boathouse, not towards it. No one in our little cove recognized it as theirs, so we accepted it as yet another delivery from the F.O.M.S. Boat fenders are our favorite F.O.M.S. delivery.
Not all deliveries are wanted. One spring, neighbors to our west returned to the island to find a hull of a small fiberglass boat washed up on their rock. They called the Coast Guard and were told that since the boat didn’t have any registration numbers, the boat was now their problem. They had to pay to have it towed away.
Sometimes the F.O.M.S. is a first-come-first-served type store. Whenever I see a bumper floating in the River, I jump in my kayak and go out to retrieve it. At one point, I think all of the bumpers on one of our boats were F.O.M.S. deliveries. The reason we needed new bumpers is that one by one all of the bumpers had been “recalled” by the F.O.M.S.
The Free Outdoor Marine Store giveth, but also taketh away. Probably our biggest bonanza was a dock ladder that washed ashore, which after checking with neighbors we attached to our dock. We enjoyed it for several years before it was ripped from our dock and washed down River somewhere. Over the years, we’ve lost our share of bumpers, boat cushions, hats, etc. I often wonder who has discovered items that blew out of our boat or off our dock.
No doubt, many islanders have had special deliveries from the F.O.M.S. And…I’m sure many items have been “donated” as well. The good thing is, there is no foreign exchange fee, tax, or delivery charge. You may not get exactly what you ordered, but it sometimes feels like Christmas, with a surprise waiting under the tree, or at least, washed up on your rock.
So the next windy night you experience, know that the F.O.M.S. will be making many deliveries and you may get one (or donate one)!
By Lynn E. McElfresh
Lynn McElfresh is a regular contributor to “TI Life,” writing stories dealing with her favorite Grenell Island and island life. This marks number 92. You can see all of Lynn’s articles here. (We celebrated her #80 in July, 2015!) Lynn helps us move pianos, fix the plumbing and often finds books, places and people to review… This time she has outdone herself! I will never not enjoy a good windstorm again! If you find some treasurers… do send us some photographs!