When I transferred my site from one host to the next I lost some of my old Escargot stories. Thanks to the Internet Wayback Machine, I just recovered this one. I thought I’d write it up and share it again. It is from 12 years ago, from when I first built my Escargot boat. Not all pictures have been recovered yet, and the ones I have are mighty small.
More than a year ago, when this boat dream began, I had the Snohomish River in mind. I
knew very little about it really, just that I had seen small portions of the river now and then
over the last 44 years of my life. I had found remarkably little about the river online or in
books or maps, but basically heard that there is about 25 miles of slough and river that
are available. As to conditions or the suitability of my boat for the river, I really didn’t know.
I just decided to trust my limited information and go for it.
We launched at the 10th street ramp in Everett. That is behind the jetty in the harbor there.
Saw many seals as we motored away heading up the river. With my little 6hp 4 stroke it
did just great heading up stream, even when the tide was running against me. Alex took
many pictures of the bridges, the old boats and the wildlife.
As soon as we could we pulled into Ebey Slough. There are a few funky marinas there but
not much else. There are no homes anywhere on the sloughs and there was virtually no
other boat traffic. It was very isolated. The entire slough system is diked. Behind virtually all
of the dikes you will find forest and swamp, but also an occasional cow or horse pasture.
In Ebey slough a tree house amidst the ramshackle boats of Ebey Islands informal
Amongst the boats on Ebey Island is this small barge… more a dock really… with an old
ships pilot house as structure.
My 12 year old son, Alex, gets his first taste of being towed on an inner tube. Even with
my lowly six hp outboard it moves along pretty well!
The first night we just tied up at the confluence of three sloughs. The current is pretty mild
so it was no problem. Actually, we anchored in the mud, and also used a spiral stake from
a pet store to add another line for security. Both would have worked well on their own. The
tidal variation is about 12 feet anyway, so we have to leave plenty of slack line and be
careful of what is under us, since we may soon be several feet lower than we started!
Insects were our only problem. We had a touch of rain that night, but I had put a tarp over
the rear of the boat, so all was dry when we awoke.
The next morning we motored up another slough to Marysville and got some supplies,
including insect repellant! Saw otter and many herons and king fisher, plus an old wreck
or two. A Subway sandwich tasted pretty good! Alex takes his turn at the helm.
There are no public docks in Marysville. In fact, there are no public docks on the entire run
of the river really. So we tied up to the back of a rather ramshackle marina in Marysville.
Later… bellies filled with Subway’s best, we head down the river again. At low tide the
channel was a challenge. We also saw many otters.
Too much time on the boat, so Alex and I land in the mud and sink up to our knees. Many
tracks of deer, birds, otter, and perhaps a cougar.
Around the corner Alex poses in the mud.
A rare shot of dad.
While heading for our second night we come across another small marina on the back
side of Ebey Island.
Like all the marinas on the river, the boats are an odd mix. Most of them are on deaths
door, but most of them are also very interesting boats!
The next night we spent on the gentle bend of another slough just south and east of
Everett. Beautiful sunrise and sunset there, and the insect repellant did the job! We tried
fishing, but a 12 year old attention span is not really up to fishing! We also gathered wood
for a fire for s’mores, but soon the incoming tied robbed us of all the dry ground!
Most of the river is edged with either forest or farm. This was edged with horse pasture.
See how the tide has backed the river up. Alex takes a turn at fishing.
The next morning we awoke to a beautiful day and high tide.
We now leave all the sloughs and head onto the Snohomish River.
The next day we motored into the river again and headed up toward Snohomish. There are
NO public docks anywhere on the river, including in Snohomish. We pulled up next to a
barely used and horrid boat ramp and pulled up into a small lip of mud and tied off to a
tree. We then walked around Snohomish and went over to the airport there for lunch.
Harvey field is a cute little airport buzzing with activity. When we got back, the boat was still
there, but the water wasn’t! The tide effect was pretty strong even that far up the river, so we
ended up high and dry in the mud for a good six hours! Thanks to the stout construction
and design, it was no problem though.
That evening we pushed out into a very strong wind and fought it and the tide current as
we pushed downstream looking for a place to spend the night. It was getting dark so I was
a little concerned. We found a small cove and pulled in, threading our way through some
submerged snags and shallows… mindful of the possibility of getting stuck when the tide
went out. Eventually the wind died and all was well. I anchored in the middle of the small
cove and just gently swung with the wind. Dinner included fresh blackberry cobbler using
the blackberries we picked while in Snohomish! Cobbler and chicken and dumplings. AH!
Kids of 12 are not very good at “relaxing”. For me, this trip is a wonderful break from the
decisions and worry of work and home. But it seems Alex has no thoughts of relaxing.
The closest he gets is his time on his GameBoy. So I knew I would have to come up with
ideas to keep us busy, ideas that would appeal to both of us.
To that end I made sure meals were a focus, not a break. This meant we didn’t eat food
from a can, we MADE our food. We did considerable research, and research is half the
fun of any project! We came up with chicken pot pie for the first night. This used chicken
from a can, a jar of gravy, some shallots, and Bisquick. First, slice and fry the shallots.
Then, add the chicken and fry until just beginning to brown. Next, add the gravy. While this
simmers and thickens, mix up some Bisquick in a plastic bag. Add clumps of the
bisquick to the chicken and gravy, close the lid, and let them cook like dumplings. When
the dumplings are fluffy, you are done.
We awoke to a light fog the next morning, just enough to make the river seem an even
more magical place. Every night I put a huge kerosene lantern on top of the boat to act as
an anchor light. Technically not required on a boat this size, especially with NO river traffic
at all, but it looked romantic anyway! The tank is big enough that it would probably burn for
5 or 6 nights before it needed refueling. It is a Deitz Jupiter lantern, just FYI. Looks pretty
We motored down the river in a light fog, just for the experience. Running at idle the boat
does just the right speed for the light fog or for serious site seeing! We were starting to get
a little stinky and tired by this point. Floating on the river in the dark, waves ever so gently
lapping at our sides, a boat WE MADE… oh.. it is wonderful. But we were tired and the
temperatures had been steadily climbing. The highs that day were near 90. That is awfully
hot in a boat painted dark red, dark green, and black!
We spent one more night on the river, seeing our first group of jet skies. Horrid things, or
rather, the manners of the drivers were lacking. They create huge wakes and only one of
the half dozen actually slowed down. But perhaps it was also the heat and tiredness that
brought on our muttered cussings!
We decided we would head home the next day. It had been a wonderful 5 days and four
nights. Alex had shown me that he was far more capable than I had imagined. Things like
that can sneak up on you. Last time I looked, or so it seemed, he was just a little boy still
willing to hold my hand. Now he is almost a teenager and very capable of handling the
anchor, setting the lines, and cooking dinner. A wonderful time to connect. The day we got
back I asked for help cleaning out the boat. He said, in his soon to be teenager way, “Dad,
I’m just used to it being you, me, and nature. Let’s wait!” In spite of his transparent effort to
get out of work, we chose instead to make some herbal tea and chat of our journey. The
timing was just right. We both were looking forward to next year, with new dreams and
ideas already forming.
A wonderful boat, a wonderful river, a wonderful time to reflect and connect.