We pulled up to the Ellen O. Moyer Nature Park at Back Creek, which has a little cove off of Back Creek where things tend to wash up, near dusk. There's less driftwood and more trash this far up the creek, but it's still fun to check. But this time what we found wasn't trash, it was a derelict dinghy. It was half-deflated, only barely floating, and judging from the amount of accumulated dirt and grime had been adrift for some time. It still had a painter* that was within reach of the shore, so I pulled it in out of the water.
My immediate concern was to prevent it from becoming a hazard to navigation, but there wasn't anything sufficiently heavy to anchor it. Given enough time I likely could have improvised something, but since it was going to be getting dark soon I had to settle for pulling it ashore and hoping that the tide didn't carry it out of the cove. My other concern was seeing if I could identify who the owner was and possibly returning their lost dink to them, so I took several pictures of the craft, including its Maryland registration number, while I still had light.
The next morning, I returned to the cove with some equipment in order to properly secure the wayward dinghy until I could identify its owner. As I had suspected it would, the tide had shifted its position but fortunately it hadn't gone far. Now it was on the opposite side of the cove very near to the A-dock of Port Annapolis Marina. With a little effort (and only a slight bit of cold water down the top of one waterproof boot), I managed to get the dinghy ashore and properly secured so that it wouldn't drift out into the creek and become a nuisance.
On Monday, I contacted the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to inform them of the situation and ask for assistance with contacting the owner. Shortly thereafter, the owner called me directly to confirm the condition and location of the dinghy.
I guess now I can add Amateur Dinghy Salvage Artist to my resume right beside Amateur Salvage Diver.
*In nautical terms, a painter is a long bow line attached to a dinghy or other small craft. There were no paint-brush-wielding people attached to the dinghy.