“The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.” Dale Carnegie
“Little boats should keep near shore.” Benjamin Franklin
One weekend that we had retreated to our small beach cabin at Surfside (see preceding article), I had noticed that the marina at San Luis Pass, north of us, offered boats to rent, so I suggested that we go on a boat trip. We arrived at the marina full of enthusiasm, as our kids had never been on any kind of boat. Being total novices, we had nothing but our swimsuits and T-shirts…no water, no food, no spare gas. No nothing. But off we went….me the captain, my pregnant wife, and our three kids (8, 6 and 3). The boat itself was a nice 16 foot metal rowboat kind of thing with a twenty horsepower outboard motor. I was not asked if I knew anything about operating the motor or guiding the boat; all they wanted was my driver’s license.
Not wanting to face the waves, my wife insisted that we stick to the inner bay. While broad in most places, the bay area is shallow, usually less than a foot, but no more than eight feet deep. Being on the coast, the tides roll into and out of the bay. I intended to follow the flow of the tide.
One of my personality flaws is that I like to take shortcuts. Sometimes my shortcuts turn into long-cuts. That was the case this day. We had gotten about a mile from the marina when I decided to but across the water to a more open part of the bay. What I didn’t realize was that the water was only about five inches deep. The outboard motor churned into the mud, and the shear pin in propeller, put in to protect the motor, broke. The propeller didn’t turn. Still the captain, I was determined to protect my passengers. I pulled the boat to shore, about thirty yards, where I saw an open space. Otherwise we would have had to be standing in the salt grass fronds as we awaited rescue or drifted helplessly in the water.
After a while, I looked around. I could see the coastal road, maybe five hundred yards to the east. A plan emerged. I would leave the four of them and trudge back to the road and thence to the marina to get the marina to come rescue us. So off I went, jogging through the muddy salt grass. After about a hundred yards I came upon a backwater sort of slue and wondered how I would get across. Then another small skiff appeared, with two middle aged men and one of the men’s wives. They were fishing.
“What in the world are you doing out here?” they shouted. “Don’t you know that these marshes are thick with rattlesnakes? Get in the boat right away!” I didn’t need any urging and quickly jumped in the boat.
I then told them my sad tale, and they quickly volunteered to rescue the rest of the family. The man operating his boat was much more careful not to embed his outboard into the mud, and his motor was designed to operate in very shallow water.
As their boat slid up to the waiting family, the woman said, “My God! And she’s pregnant too!” One of the men told me to get the family back into our boat as quickly as possible, as he tied a rope from the prow of our boat to the back of his boat.
“The reason I wanted you guys to get into the boat so quickly is that there are no open spaces in these marshes except where the rattlesnakes get together to mate. That flat area you were in is just a rattlesnake meeting area.”
Of course we all shuddered, and we thanked our rescuers profusely. They took us back to the marina and we turned in the boat, reporting the shear pin problem. I received no refund even though I hadn’t used up my allotted two hours.
I always worry when my wife is quiet. I thought it was just PTSD or something like that. I certainly felt that we had escaped a terrible situation, and she did too. Before we got back to the beach cabin we all said a prayer of thanks. When we got back, we suspended the five o’clock rule (no drinking before then). The danger had passed.
I know it is hard to believe, but my wife refuses to get into any boat of any kind or nature, even a cruise ship. I guess she figures that nothing good can come of it.
Moral: Since our boat trauma, I have seen mostly young men numerous times trying to do something that they know nothing about. Don’t. Find out how to do things, how things work, and what the risks and rewards can be. If you want further verification, Google ‘Darwin Awards’!