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  • Carly got her driver’s license in South Africa. Our old Corolla has the bumps and dings and scrapes to show for it. The driver test in South Africa is very specific about how many times to look each way at intersections and putting the handbrake on and off again when you come to a stop.

    But I’m driving a fucking automatic, said Carly.

    I couldn’t argue with her but she was going to need to pass the test South African style.

    All our American driving habits were useless so we enrolled her in a driving school. They’d pick her up and have her drive around downtown Pretoria through neighborhoods and streets where I have never cared or even thought to go. Other times they’d go out on the highway and navigate the streams of mini-bus taxis swerving through 3 lanes to drop off and pick up passengers, the BMWs and Mercedes cruising along at 90 miles and hour and more, and the huge, diesel belching trucks churning along at barely 20 miles an hour. She came back sweaty and jangled and convinced she’d live where she didn’t have to drive.

    She drives now though some of our habits have been passed along anyway. She’ll park half a mile away and walk before she’ll parallel park.

    This year Carly and Claire are staying on the island and I am going back to South Africa. In a few days, when I walk down the hill and ride across the bay for the last time with my duffle and bag I’ll be starting the long trek back on my own. They are starting a business. This summer it was time for Carly to learn to drive the boat.

    We started with knots. Tying up to the mooring. Tying on to a bollard on the float. Tying on to a cleat. Half hitch. Clove hitch. Bowline.

    You know, she said the other day. They are really all variations of the hitch.

    I grinned.

    The big test in sea based driving is coming in to land at a dock or float. Everyone notices a landlubber making a crash landing, or backing off and trying again and sometimes again to come alongside. Passengers making desperate grabs for lines and arm-stretching reaches with a gaff or oar or any damn pole. Not a pretty sight, though plenty of amusement for the lobstermen unloading their catch and all the other onlookers.

    We’ve been practicing, talking through the procedure. Trying it out on the float on the island when no one is around.

    Yesterday we went ashore for supplies and materials.

    Carly drove.

    We skimmed along, across the bay, a light sou’wester raising a chop, the air all salt crystal clear and bright.

    It’s way better than driving a car isn’t it, I called out over the engine and the rush of water against the hull.

    Hell yes, she said. There aren’t any lines. I hate the lines. I always worry about where they are and how to tell if I’m in the right place.

    The Swan’s Island Ferry did its run a few miles away. Fishermen tended their gear here and there. A sailboat made for the mid-channel buoy off Bass Harbor Head. Just us and the gulls and the wind, picking our way in from the islands.

    I grinned.
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