Monday, August 6, 2012

Boating in Rugged Idaho: A Survival Story

One day on our recent two-week Idaho stay, we decided to take a boat ride to a place on the lake none of us had ever visited—a bay that is accessible only by boat. It looked like it would take about 20-30 minutes to drive there. There’s a nice campground, beach, picnic tables, outhouses, even an ancient metal slide. Sounds like a good time.

A little back-story on our families’ boat history: Once Brian and his family (including infant sister) were caught in the muck of low tide for 8 hours. My mom once drove a boat up onto a dock. Once when my sister was water skiing the prop broke off the boat. My uncles/aunts/grandparents/ cousins who live on a lake have second or third-hand boats that always break down.  This may or may not be related to the fact that they are all generous and lend their boats to anyone. Also they store the boats in a huge barn all winter(s) long. My grandfather fixes everything with baling wire—including motor boats. Clearly we have a rich history of nautical excellence.
Bring on the adventure.
So we all jumped in Generous Uncle Pete’s boat, on a sparklingly sunny day, ready for adventure. We made sure we had an oar and life jackets first. We got to the park with no problem—the endless blue rolling by, the boys loving the ride, the motor roaring. Had a lovely picnic after playing on the super-safe retro metal slide and the long-chained, really-high swings. So much better than the playgrounds made today. Also much hotter than playgrounds made today.

The beach was great—and there was only one other group on it. When they left we insisted (physically) that Calvin get into the water in his life jacket. Anyone within earshot would have thought he was being tortured and/or drowning. Considering his fear of water, he did okay. After a couple hours at the park we loaded everything and everybody up into the boat.

Then Brian tried to start it. Then again. And again. And blue smoke. And again. More blue smoke. Uneasy glances. And again. Finally it started and we all took a breath. The blue smoke floated across the bay, as we pulled away from the dock. I noticed Calvin making a serious face and asked him above the roar of motor, what he was doing. “I’m being the motor,” he said, as if I should have already known. “I’m Calvin Motor.” And he immediately went back to his focused face and deep humming. 

Calvin Motor and the less serious Clark Motor
About a quarter of the way home, Brian’s beloved Idaho hat blew off. So he turned around and drove up next to it. He killed the engine as my sister jumped off the boat to rescue it. Calvin Motor also shut down and remained perfectly still. At this point we were way out in the middle of a huge lake. Where was that oar? Do we have cell service? After Crystal rescued the hat, the motor started up perfectly and we all breathed once again. Calvin motor fired up as well.

A few minutes later an empty bag flew out of our boat. We turned around and this time Crystal scooped up the bag with a wiffle bat and we didn’t have to kill the motor. We pulled into a bay with a gas station to fill up. Calvin Motor asked to be covered up with a towel while he got filled up with gas. After a good $60 of gas, a turn of the key produced a click. No blue smoke. No sputters. Just a click.
You’ve got to be kidding.
A gas station attendant gave us some advice but there was nothing going on. We got off the boat in the relentlessly burning sun and Crys and I took the boys around the side of the gas station where there was a strip of shade before the first boat slip and I gave them a juice box. Dad and Brian couldn’t figure out anything. They tested the battery and poked around in various boat areas. After awhile of bravely entertaining the boys on the dock behind the gas station, Brian showed up from inside the gas station with ice cold beer for us. It’s a tough life, being marooned on a dock. In the shade. With a beer.
I helped move the boat down the dock away from the gas pumps and we pulled everything out of it. There was a perfect-sized cart that the attendant was able to lend us and we pushed our cooler with our sustenance and all our other stuff into the shade of…a bar and grille? Hm. Too bad. When I got back, Clark was getting impatient and ran around the corner of the gas station, fell (shocker) and skinned his knees. Upon seeing his brother in pain, Calvin emptied his bladder through his wet swim diaper and a puddle spread in a perfect circle the dock in front of the gas station. Awesome. So we cleaned the knees and the dock, reapplied diapers to the boys, and decided it was time to form a rescue plan.
My mom had just finished work, but she could go back to her house, get the key to our van with car seats in it, go to my grandparents’ and get our van, and drive around the lake to the bay we were at, and pick us up. Uncle Pete would bring his boat trailer and rescue the boat.
Now for the most harrowing part of our tale—we all went inside the bar and grille, ordered nachos, huckleberry beer, and apple juice, and watched reruns of the home run derby on the giant TVs in the air conditioning. The boys colored. Sometimes these things happen, and I’ve learned to make the best of them. Suffer through them, and in the end I’ll be a stronger person.
After awhile we went ahead and ordered a pizza and more huckleberry beer and (Crys, why did you order me another one?!) Mom and Uncle Pete came. With more people to feed on the island, the fight for survival turned ugly. We did the only thing we could; we ordered some chicken fingers as well.
After dinner Uncle Pete loaded up his boat and Brian drove us home in our van. The boys fell asleep on the ride home, with lots of food in their bellies.

And that is how we survived being stranded in the rugged Idaho.

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