It happened back in my early duck hunting days, long before I owned my first duck boat. In those days I used to put a tiny outboard on the side of my old 18’ Grumman canoe and head out into the marshes. My Brittany spaniel, Zac, usually was my only companion and the canoe would be piled high with decoys.
That morning was black, with no moon and a thin fog to soak up the stars. Not a breath of air rippled the inky water of the bay.
I had grown up around there, so the waters of the inland bay were very familiar. A saltwater river flowed with the tide to a larger bay and then the ocean. Back in those days, nobody was around that time of the year and no lights showed along the shoreline. Far to the northwest and across a distant marsh, the dim glow of one streetlight could be seen
Zac and I headed off in the right direction, my eyesight good enough to differentiate between the black of the water and the still blacker land. Running lights or a flash light would have destroyed my night vision, so I never ever considered them. In all the years I’d been hunting there I’d never seen another boat out on the water, so the odds of hitting another unlit vessel were about the same as getting killed by a meteor.
In the far corner of the bay, where the river entered, I slowed because the tide was low and I didn’t want to break a shear pin. The bottom was soft everywhere, but not that soft. Finding the middle of river turned out to be a bit difficult. Eel grass clogged the shallower water. Worried, with the tide so low, we barely made way. My eyes strained to see the banks of the river.
And then beside the canoe, about amidships, a great white ghost reared up from the black water, appearing over six feet tall.
My Brittany stood up on her hind legs and almost fell backwards from the boat. In an instant the canoe’s momentum carried my head within an arm’s length of this creature. Reflexes brought my arms up to shield my face. Spread wings flapped, as big as bed sheets and about to engulf us.
As my pulse returned to normal, the vague shapes of maybe a dozen swans could be seen on the river. Zac stood atop the piled decoys looking aft.
Those things should have running lights.