As tranquil as a pond in midsummer, the Sakonnet barely ripples on this overcast, gray November morning.
I watch a fishing boat navigate the channel heading downriver to open sea, and my mind drifts back to a long ago fishing expedition.
My husband and our two boys had gone fishing at daybreak. On an impulse later that morning, my daughter and I waited for them at the ramp and climbed aboard.
It was the first time I had taken a ride on our new acquisition, an 18-foot Sea Pro center-console boat with a 90-horsepower Toshatsu engine. It was a clear day with little wind, and we skimmed over the waves heading a few miles upriver. After circling Gould Island, we returned to the state beach.
Backing our Ford Explorer up to the trailer hitch, my husband dragged our boat onto dry land and began to secure the straps over the transom.
Another four-wheel vehicle, a late-model Ford Bronco, pulled up alongside our boat. The words “State of Rhode Island Environmental Police” were on the door.
Dressed in a dark green uniform with a prominent badge and holstered gun, the officer strode over to my husband and asked for the boat registration.
“Are we going to jail?” my son whispered. “No,” I said, hugging him close.
My husband continued to pack away the fishing gear, pretending it was just another day at the beach.
“How many fish did you catch today?” the officer asked.
“About a dozen,” my husband said.
“Show me the fish,” he ordered.
My husband climbed on the trailer, swung his leg over the gunwale and flung himself into the boat. Grabbing the pail, he handed it to the officer, who carried the fish to his truck. Then he took out a measuring device and calculated the length of every single bloody fish.
“These two are under limit,” he said. “Put them back in the water.”
Humiliated, my husband carried the fish to the water’s edge and tossed them in.
“You folks from around here?” the officer asked, changing his tone of voice and letting down his guard. Our Massachusetts license plate gleamed in the noontime sun.
“We’re summer residents,” my husband said.
We headed for the summer house in silence, but some seagulls spotted the floating fish, and they squawked loudly as they fought over our catch.
I knew that if those two fish were under limit, they were slightly under limit. What difference did it make whether those fish were consumed by humans or birds?
These days when we pull up anchor and begin to approach the ramp, we scan the beach and waste little time in hitching up the boat and driving away.
The seagulls can fend for themselves.