Welcome back! For those of you reading for the first time, the story starts here– Red Sky In the Morning
If you recall, when we left off I had just started the motor as waves began to crash over the bow.
There was no gentleness in my touch, just a power slam of the throttle, and a punch of the thumb to trim that nose way up. I had to slow the gallons of water still pounding over the bow.
Just as dependable as Mama’s cooking, that old girl jumped up on cue and rode the next wave like a daredevil’s ramp. When she slammed back down into the base of the next wave, I worked the throttle and trim to get nose height but keep her rear in the water.
Finally she heaved to just the way I wanted. That gave me a quick couple seconds to get my bearings and find land marks. Again, panic nearly took a choke hold on me.
The launch, and relative safety of my truck were six miles… directly into the storm. I could run east, but that would mean Canadian water under the hull, and the red tape that would cause wouldn’t take me out of the lashing Mother Nature was laying down anyway.
North or south would do little good since that angry sky stretched as far as I could see in both of those directions. Then the rain hit. Actually, to be precise, the sky just fell.
Nothing but flying water could be seen in any direction. It came from above, flew past nearly sideways, and every few seconds, shards of it flooded everything as another wave exploded off the hull.
My sense of direction became as useful as a flung tomato. The only indication of direction I had were the waves as they bashed against the keel and sprayed over the bow.
I tried to curl my entire body behind the small windshield, which was the only thing even resembling cover available. Only two thoughts ran through my mind.
- Keep the spray coming over the bow. (That told me my direction- hopefully)
- I’m gonna die!
I couldn’t tell you exactly how long it all lasted, I hadn’t paid attention to the time in hours, and my cell phone was more than likely at the back of the boat amidst the pile of other gear swishing around in ankle deep water.
I tightened my grip on the wheel as a particularly stout wave hammered home and felt a shudder pass down the old girl’s spine. All I could do was pray she held together.
By now, I’ve held and maintained the same course (as far as I could tell) for long enough to make it second nature. So my brain started to whip through the what if’s, and a plan of action for each.
The real depression of that line of thought was a stone cold, punch you in the gut reality. I had not grabbed my life jacket before I had to act. Without it, those waves were killers.
That lone thought proved to be the deciding factor. Come hell or even higher water, I would ride my boat to the very end. My thoughts went to Mama and our kids. In no way shape or form was I ready to meet my maker and leave them behind!
“We are in this together girl, and I want to go home. Lord please keep her together!”
Another eternity seemed to pass as I bounced like a drowned rag doll behind the wheel.
Finally the rain began to slack a bit. Then the wind lost some of its luster as well. A minute or two later, calm water and clear skies.
It took a couple more minutes of sun to coax my body out of the contortionist pose behind the windshield. When I stood, my eyes fell to the dash.
I reached for the throttle tempted to put it in neutral, then thought better of it. After the fury that storm had spanked her with, my twenty year old boat still had forward movement. It wasn’t a time I wanted to risk losing that!
With one hand on the wheel, I turned to assess damage. Mud and water sloshed well over ankle deep. A massive knot of anchor ropes, clothes, food and mangled fishing rods littered the floor behind me, and the anchor I had tossed on the bow floor now stuck into the engine cover.
The console was empty, it’s shelf ripped out by the powerful forces that threw me about. A first aid kit swished around in the corner of the seat pedestal and floor, it’s escape path blocked by a now spent fire extinguisher that had somehow broke free, and set itself off.
Even the depth finder that had been secured to the dash lay in water, gently sloshing back and forth tethered only by the cords that used to power it.
A quick glance out both sides of the boat revealed that the pumps were still fully functional and pumping. Finally I gathered the nerve to look west.
I had missed my intended mark by only about half a mile to the north. And I was pleasantly surprised to find myself only about a mile off shore. The final leg of that journey took a while.As bad as I wanted to reach and bump the throttle up, I resisted.
After a nightmare like that you just don’t mess with anything that is going in your favor. When finally back on solid ground, I looked that old girl right square in the bow lights thanked her for staying together, and then promised never to intentionally put either one of us in that situation again.
The long drive home left no doubt as to the power of that storm. Trees and power lines were down everywhere. Shop signs skewered with limbs, or broken out and jagged. Even as far away as our home, the power was out.
As I rolled into our drive with my battered old friend in tow, I could not help but let out a sigh of relief. My hands still trembled from nerves, and never has home looked so good.
I found myself truly appreciative of Mama’s welcome home hug that night, and everything about home seemed so much richer.
And I made myself the promise to always remember…. Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, Sailors take warning!