The author’s fiancee, Abby, navigates their boat in the fading afternoon light. Shortly after returning to the dock, an otter took up residence aboard. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

The author’s fiancee, Abby, navigates their boat in the fading afternoon light. Shortly after returning to the dock, an otter took up residence aboard. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

I Went To the Woods: Dealing with an otter squatter

I assume it’s an otter because of shell fragments in the runny excretions left in the forward stowage

An otter took up residence in my boat.

I am assuming it was an otter because of the shell fragments in the runny excretions left in the forward stowage of my 21-foot North River soft top Seahawk.

I’d like to skin the otter for weaseling its way in there, but I guess I can’t really blame it. My boat is one of the last ones still in the water at the marina. The slip is in a great location to ward off the worst winter rollers which apparently makes it appealing for marine squatters.

I keep saying I’m going to set up a game camera, but haven’t followed through. Maybe because I’m not really interested in watching the thing gain entry, crawl into the dry space up front and enjoy the quietest, driest spot around.

I also wouldn’t be able to handle the possibility that the thing doesn’t go in there to sleep and live. What if it goes in there just to poo?

[I Went to the Woods: Earning the local title]

In addition to my boat becoming a thriving habitat, I have been stirred from sleep by irrational and ridiculous nightmares that come with having a boat in the water during the angriest parts of winter. On particularly windy nights, the worry is reasonable. What if one of my lines has frayed and pops? But a week ago, on a calm night, I woke up sweating, convinced I had forgotten to tie the thing up. The embarrassing part was that it took me what seemed like minutes for my intellectual motor to start, then idle at a speed that would assure me that of all the things I have and will forget to do, and all the catastrophes that can and will happen, forgetting to tie up my boat won’t be one of them. Not tying it up well enough is a possibility, but in this ridiculous nightmare, I hadn’t so much as connected one line to the dock.

So with the weather poor and hunting over, I decided to pull the boat. In doing so, I’d put my mind at ease when it’s blowing 60 and evict the furry critter.

With my fiancee in town, I like opportunities to show her I can handle simple tasks such as pulling a boat. She has seen too many examples of my ineptitude while attempting simple tasks, so I was hoping for the right conditions.

Last week, when we were returning from an unsuccessful steelhead trip, the wind turned my boat and the slip into two magnets repulsing each other. As I approach from the north, my slip is to the west, but I have to tie up on the starboard side, so if I don’t stop my southern momentum, I drift away from the finger. I have been getting pretty good at this, but in this case, it was the wind that kept the finger out of arms reach. I was calm (for once) and backed up, then tried again. I was again unsuccessful but finally managed to get secure. Had this been June rather than January, I would have hit at least three other boats.

Anyway, the conditions were not favorable Monday, but I pressed on and decided to take a breath, relax and keep the episode of “Captain Jeff’s Boating Adventures” rated G. Somehow I managed, even with the rain, wind, tide and something funky happening with my e-brake.

My fiancee smiled the joyful smile of someone who is happy to see evidence that she’s marrying someone who doesn’t need a T-shirt or mug apologizing for the psychopath he becomes while docking a boat.

And I’m sure the otter is fine.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His podcast, “The Mediocre Alaskan,” is available on Spotify and Apple Music. He is, of course, on Instagram @alaskalund. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in the Empire twice a month.

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