William “Road Dirt” Flower is in a predicament in North Cove.
His sailboat, the Crown Royale, ran ashore on Washaway Beach May 19 as he was heading up the coast to Alaska. The self-proclaimed “tramp” has been stranded since then, digging around the boat each day and trying to pull it a little farther back toward the sea.
His travails have not gone unnoticed by the community.
The tiller was broken when the boat washed up on the beach; a local man fixed it for him. Other beachside residents have brought him food and other supplies, and helped him dig.
“If you see someone in distress, you need to help them,” said Danny Hahn, one of the North Cove denizens who took Flower some food.
Every night during the high tide, he can be seen digging out his boat and pulling it toward the water. Others occasionally show up to help him, for which he is very grateful.
On Sunday the boat sat at a 45-degree angle, and Flower was frightened that it might tip over. But he said someone dug around it while he slept that night, and by morning the boat was up to a much less precarious 25-degree angle.
“I can’t believe there are that many nice people left in the world,” he said. “I thought there were a few, but … it is way more than I expected it to be.”
Coast Guard notice
On Tuesday, Flower’s journey took a new twist as he received an order from the U.S. Coast Guard Port Columbia River, Oregon. It stated that, based on a “cursory visual inspection,” authorities had determined the Crown Royale needed rudder repairs and a follow-up inspection.
“The Coast Guard has an obligation to respect the rights of maritime industry organization, but we also have an obligation to protect the environment and do our utmost to ensure the safety of mariners,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Clark, public affairs specialist for the Coast Guard in Seattle.
The order allows Flower to make the repairs himself, but the quality of repair must meet maritime standards, Clark added. “If the vessel poses a threat to mariner safety or the environment, the Coast Guard would then intervene.”
As of this writing, Flower was making the repairs and had scheduled an official inspection.
He’s growing increasingly frustrated at his inability to reach the water. Still, he’s optimistic that he will be able to get under way again. It just seems to be a matter of how long it will take.
“I’m playing it by ear, second by second,” he said.
Once his boat passes inspection and he gets it close enough to the water, he said, it will take about 2,000 feet of rope, two personal watercrafts and a vessel on the water to pull him off the beach. He’s hoping some folks might be willing to help him with that when the time comes, as he can’t afford to pay for such services.
Once a professional welder, Flower suffered life-changing injuries in a 1981 car crash. He has been living on disability since then. But he has found solace on the water; he acquired the Crown Royale through bartering and trade.
Early this year, he was camping on an island in St. Helens, Oregon, on the Columbia River. When spring came along, he decided to head for Alaska to pan for gold.
He spent time in Astoria before successfully battling the brutal Columbia River bar. From there, he got as far as North Cove before the sea tested him again. He said he saw the breakers, and the next thing he knew he was on the beach.
Flower hopes to complete his journey to Juneau, Alaska, where he intends to sell his sailboat and buy a vessel with a motor to explore the islands and pan for gold.
He said that if he had been able to rectify the situation quickly on his own, he would look back at Washaway Beach as just a trouble spot; however, with the kindness and caring he has received from this community, he feels he has been adopted. When he looks back at this experience, he said, he will see it as an extraordinary time in his life when his faith in humanity was restored and he did not feel alone in his struggle.
“This will be a spot I remember for sure,” he said, “and the people what’s done it.”
Melissa Vergara is a freelance writer based in Raymond. Reach her at email@example.com.