In search of what's next

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Beginning the search...

If you wonder why I named my blog in search of what's next, here's a story that got me thinking about that for a book title. This is a true story and it happened back in 1983, I think it was.

I used to work with a friend of mine at a night shift job and when we'd get off of work, we'd go fishing or hunting or target shooting or just goof off if no pressing needs arose. I was fresh out of college and was intent on going out and doing anything my mind settled on. This particular story involves fishing and boating.

My dad had a boat since before I was born. It was a small 14' runabout with a 35 horse engine that did fairly well. We upgraded it to a 50 horse and that little boat would scoot across the water. It would beat the crap out of you, but it would do it in a hurry. Anyway, so I spent my whole life around a boat of some sort. Dad taught us kids how to drive it, tow it, trailer it and take care of it safely.

Enough so that he would let us take it without supervision to the local lake for fishing, skiing, wasting time, etc. My friend (who'll we call Ted) wanted me to go fishing with him to Lake Erie to try to catch some walleye and he wanted us to take dad's boat so we wouldn't have to rent anything. I talked dad into letting me take it to Lake Erie.

Now if you've ever been on Lake Erie, a 14' boat is stupid. I admit that. But, hey I was going fishing. People had told me that storms would blow up out of nowhere. I was like, yeah right. I've seen storms coming from across the horizon and you can't tell me otherwise.

Well, I was WRONG.

We put in at Port Clinton and went out toward North Bass Island. We'd heard on the ship to shore radio that the walleye were biting in this area. So, we loaded up and headed out. It wasn't bad at all. About 1' chop and a rather easy ride. We get out to what looked like a good spot (didn't have a depth finder at the time) and decided we'd drift in the breeze and if we didn't catch anything, we'd move somewhere else and try again.

We were smart enough to put life jackets on. Also, dad kept his outboard tuned well, so it'd start really easy. (Praise God for small favors.) We baited up, turned on the radio and cast out. I sat in the front seat and Ted in the back.

Not 2 minutes later, Ted tells me, "Uh Rick, we have a problem". I look back and he's standing in about 12" of water. I had my feet propped on the side, so I didn't get wet. Yet.

It seemed that this storm (which I thought I'd see coming) snuck up on us and the water was lapping over the transom and quickly filling the boat. I reeled in my line quickly and started up the engine. At this point, we were about 3" shy of going under. There was no way of planing off. Not in a tiny boat full of water and in 3' chop by now. I headed toward South Bass Island as there's a small bay on the west side that is sort of protected from the heavy water, but it seemed to be all private docks.

We puttered around the bay until the sump pump caught up. We discussed sitting there and waiting the storm out or heading back to shore. We decided to tough it out and head to shore. What should have been about 20 minutes turned into a 2 hr dirt bike track ride. The chop was up to 6' and I couldn't run it fast at all. I just had to drive to stay on the waves and try to see thru the now driving rain.

We finally made it back to shore and as we did, the wind and rain eased up considerably. It was back to the 2' chop and at least the boat was partially manueverable. I was pretty overconfident in my driving skills at this time. I headed toward the dock, which was made of concrete, not wood like the ones back at home. Just as I got the end of the dock, the wind shifted and twisted us sideways and I was afraid of running the side of the boat into the concrete, splitting us in 2. So the only thing I could do was throw it in reverse.

Yep, the 2' chop came over the back end of the boat in less that 2 seconds and there we were chest deep in water. It happened about that fast. Gear, coolers, oars, jackets, gas can, anything that would float headed out to sea. We rescued that stuff. Getting the boat out of the water was a little more difficult.

I climbed out of the lake and sloshed over to the car. I backed it into the water as far as I dared to try and see if we could muscle the boat onto the trailer, but we broke the winch line in the process. I ended up tying the line to the back of the trailer and dragging the boat ashore.

We let it set there until it drained/pumped empty. I was afraid dragging it might have damaged the engine or the hull so we went back home without any fish. On the first day there too.

By this time I worked at the same engineering office my dad did. I was an open office, not like today's cube world. It was maybe 35 or 40' wide and about 200' long. Dad sat close to the middle of the office. For some unknown stupid reason, I had to call him and tell him I was home early and I sunk his boat. He screamed out "you sunk what?!?"

Took me several months to live that down at work.

So begins the search for what's next.


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