As the dinghy powered silently towards the island in complete darkness Chloe was dancing from one side of the boat to the other, leaping up on the pontoons and peering down into the inky blackness. There was just the tiniest sliver of a moon and it was doing little to clarify if our chosen landing was going to be effective.
With a sigh I glanced down at the Luci light lying deflated at my feet. Ordinarily it proudly tops our Torqeedo motor and announces to everyone that we are a dinghy under way in the dark. Tonight it wouldn't even light up. We had blown a small hole in it on a high mountain pass in the Rockies long ago, and multiple repairs had scarred it over the years but held it together, until last night's rainstorm infiltrated its lighting system, finally leaving it unable to illuminate. RIP good and faithful equipment.
Armed with the brighter-than-the-sun boat flashlight, Chloe and I ventured out for her last shore break of the night, heading for a small island close to where we had anchored Minerva. There was a house on it but it looked uninhabited at least for tonight. I reluctantly turned on the powerful boat light to examine the shoreline as we approached, the rock face was clearly too high for us to successfully land. It took a while after extinguishing the light before I could regain night vision. Damn that light is bright.
OK, redirect to landing location #2. On our way in I had noticed a pile of kayaks on a beach further away, a beach appropriate for kayaks would be a good landing for the dink. Chloe whined as I pressed the tiller and we veered away from the little island. Yes she was past due for her evening shore run. The day had not gone as expected. Our first, second, and third planned overnight landing locations stops did not pan out because the areas listed as anchorages turned out to be inhospitable for a boat of Minerva's size in such strong winds. In the end we selected a safe spot with some room to swing on the anchor, but it made for a long day and since it wasn't part of the plan we were somewhat unprepared for the evening shore break. Chloe still refuses to use her lawn patch on the boat. Which is how we got here, dinghying in the dark to an unknown shore location.
The shoreline along this part of Connecticut is mostly fancy homes. Private beaches, how nice. For someone, I suppose, but not for us. What we really needed right then was a friendly beach, a boat ramp, a dinghy dock, a public park. Any of those would do nicely.
The kayak beach was quite far still and we were heading there when the noise on the rocks alongside us changed, softened a little bit, sounded like the waves were slower somehow. I turned on the power torch for a quick moment and confirmed a rocky beach with a slow surgey inlet. The dinghy bottom is aluminum, she could take the abuse. I turned in, twisted the Torqeedo throttle to goose her into the channel then lifted the propeller out of the water just in time as the hull bounced over the first of many smooth round rocks. We had arrived. I jumped out and pulled the boat onto shore, Chloe didn't even wait until the boat stopped moving to bound out and run off to pee. My eyes were still adjusting to the darkness again and I lost sight of her fuzzy tail quickly.
"Who are you and what are you doing here?" boomed a man's voice, low and clear and way too close in the darkness, "are you trouble?"
I about jumped out of my skin, remembered the huge homes we had seen lining the coast, and concluded I must be talking to a homeowner. "Nope, just bringing the dog to shore for a quick pee break before bedtime." My announcement was met with silence. After a few beats I called for Chloe and she bounded across the rocks and into the dinghy. I pushed the little boat out with the next wave set, slipping on the slimy round rocks, jumped in, lowered the propeller just barely into the water and twisted the throttle, and away we went, ping-ponging in the surge between the rocks until we were deep enough I could put the propeller all the way down, sit properly in the boat and catch my breath. As we passed the bluff I could barely make out the outline of a person standing there, hands on hips. Still silent, but the disapproval rolling off his posture spoke volumes.
After we were safely aboard Minerva I relayed the whole story to Lance, and he pointed out that I must have looked like a thief; approaching from an unexpected direction, lights out, with a super stealthy electric motor.
Yep, that's us. Chloe and the Cat Burglar.