After our boat's steering
cable broke on Memorial Day we brought the boat home and waited
until we could afford to get it fixed.
Time went by and we
managed to get it into the shop to have the cable replaced, a new
relay switch on the foot and a 100 hour service done.
This is the busy season
for boat repair so we expected it to be in the shop for a while. I
don't know how the mechanic got it done so fast but we dropped it off
on Thursday and on the following Monday it was ready.
The Island King and I were
on our way home from running errands when the guy called to tell us
the boat was ready and even though it was 4:30 in the afternoon we
changed plans, picked up the boat and were on the water an hour
The Island King tells me
that he wants to run the ½ tank of gas in the motor out so he can
fill it up with fresh gas since it's been serviced.
We went to our favorite
spot along Okaloosa Island to watch the sunset.
The water was calm
and after the sun set we decided to make a run from Brook's Bridge to
the Midbay Bridge and then back to the boat ramp.
“That should put us back
at the ramp on just about empty” he says.
So we cruised over to
Brook's Bridge, turned around and then we were off, flying across the
We passed a tug pushing
three loaded barges right near Brook's Bridge but he was in our rear
view mirror in a matter of minutes.
I absolutely LOVE riding
in the boat at night. The moon was full and the water was calm and we
thoroughly enjoyed our ride.
As we came up to the
Midbay Bridge it looked like it was completely foggy on the other
side. We knew it was an illusion from the moonlight but we couldn't
resist flying under the bridge into what looked like an abyss.
Of course it wasn't an
abyss and as soon as we were under the bridge the foggy abyss look
disappeared and everything looked normal again.
We slowed to an idle for a
minute and the Island King told me to look at the gas gauge.
The needle was bouncing
back and forth between a ¼ tank and empty.
“Which one do you
believe?” he asked.
Hmmm. Probably empty
because it's bouncing which means that when the bow goes up the tiny
bit of gas we have left goes back into the tank and when the bow is
down the gauge runs back to empty since there's no gas in the tank.
Time to head back to the
As soon as he put the boat
in gear it died. He tried it a few more times and it would spit and
sputter and then die.
AND the gas gauge was no
longer bouncing back and forth – it was firmly planted on empty.
We were standing there
kind of looking at each other when I remembered the barge we'd passed
Damn. We're floating in
the middle of the channel just east of the bridge and I know for a
fact that barge will be coming along shortly.
He managed to get it
cranked one last time and we made it close to the edge of the
channel, but not out of it, before it died.
He dropped the anchor to
keep us from drifting but this was the best we could do as far as
getting out of the way.
We were both a little
nervous because we knew that once the barge came under the bridge
he'd have to make a right turn to stay in the channel but because of
where we were anchored he'd have to make a HARD right turn.
Which would not be easy
for a tug pushing three barges that were loaded to the waterline.
It was about then that I
saw the giant spot light from the tug sweep the bridge.
Crap. We've got about
fifteen minutes before he gets to us.
As we're watching the
tug's light, our running lights went out right in front of us. The
mast light was still working but one minute we had running lights and
the very next minute we didn't.
This is REALLY bad. We
were pretty sure the barge would be able to make it around us but now
we have no running lights so all they'll be able to see is a mast
Thank God the Island King
keeps a small box on the boat with extra lights and the tools needed
to change them.
Within minutes he'd
replaced the lights and we could be seen again.
He called Sea Tow to bring
us some gas and was told it would be about 45 minutes before they got
The Sea Tow captain asked
if we had our lights on and we happily told him yes.
We laughed a little
because you'd have to be crazy to sit out there with no lights on and
we were extremely glad ours were now working.
Meanwhile, the barge is
getting closer and closer.
Because we were so close
to where he needed to pass I walked over to the VHF radio to hail the
captain. I wanted to tell him why we were anchored so close to where
he needed to go and to please watch out for us as he made his turn
under the bridge.
And believe it or not –
the damn thing was dead.
The Island King tells me
that it's ok because most captains are using cell phones these days
so it's no big deal if our radio doesn't work.
No big deal? Cell phones?
I might have yelled at him
a little when I told him that the cell phone thing might be true but
that I didn't have the tug boat captain's phone number and that I'd
REALLY like to talk to him.
As the barge got closer he
trained his flood light on us and it never moved.
I know he was thinking
that we were fishing or something and that we'd see his light and
realize we needed to move so he had better maneuverability coming out
from under the bridge.
Only we couldn't move so
we just sat there hoping like hell he didn't hit us.
We did grab two life
jackets out of the hatch and two floats and decided that if it looked
like he was going to hit us we were going over the side and swimming
like hell towards the shore.
We're both fat and out of
shape but we knew all we had to do was get far enough away from the
boat to avoid any debris from the collision and not to get sucked
under by the barge. From there we could rest on our floats and kick
our way to shore.
Oddly, I was nervous but
not scared. I'd studied the channel markers with my light and really
believed the barge had enough room to clear us and still make his
turn but I knew he wasn't happy about it.
The barge came under the
bridge and cleared us by about 50 yards but the captain blew his horn
at us and kept one light trained on us while he had another spotting
the channel markers.
I swear I could feel the
stink eye coming right out of that light. He's used to people getting
out of his way – and rightly so – but there was nothing we could
If our radio worked I
could have talked to him and he probably wouldn't have wanted to run
Whew. Near disaster
Now all we had to do was
wait for Sea Tow.
We had sandwiches, chips,
drinks, a radio (useful only for listening to music by the way) a
warm breeze and a gently rocking boat so the waiting was heaven.
The Island King pointed
out that I'm always saying that getting stuck is an adventure and
that he had to admit that now that the barge was gone this was the
best “crazy adventure” I'd dragged him on in a long time.
I reminded him that HE
wanted to run all of the gas out of the boat and that HE
miscalculated how much gas we'd need to get back and that HE should
have brought along a gas can in case his calculations were off AND
this was his idea not mine!
I actually enjoyed the
look on his face when it hit home that he was the one in charge of
this Donner Party Mission, not me.
Sea Tow arrived and the
first thing the Captain said was “I bet you made that Tug Captain
Not as nervous as he made
The Captain tells us that
he's glad we were able to make it as close to the edge of the channel
as possible and that we had our lights on.
He then talked about the
many “idiots” that he helps that don't drop an anchor and are
drifting away as he's trying to get to them, or the ones who break
down at night, do drop their anchor but turn off all of their lights.
The Island King and I are
feeling pleased with ourselves that this Captain doesn't think we're
Until the Island King
actually told the man he was trying to run the boat out of gas and
I was going to go with
“gas gauge must be broken” but no, he tells him that he wanted to
run out of gas. Needless to say, the Captain looked at him, laughed
and said “maybe bringing extra gas would have been a good back up
He then hands the Island
King a regular gas can with a long, odd shaped nozzle with a valve on
He's explaining that this
is what they use in NASCAR because it transfers gas really fast –
which he needs to be able to do in rough seas.
He tells him to put his
thumb over a hole in the gas can, put the nozzle into our tank, turn
the valve and then move his thumb off of the hole.
Except our gas cap is at
an odd angle on the side of our helm and the Island King was busy
trying to figure out how to get the long nozzle into the hole so he
wasn't listening to the Captain.
The Captain handed him the
can and the Island King managed to get the nozzle into the hole but
then he just started lifting the can and since he didn't cover the
hole with his thumb, gas went everywhere.
The Captain explains again
but the Island King has noticed the valve and is trying to figure it
out so he isn't listening and again starts to pour the gas without
putting his thumb over the hole.
Gas goes everywhere, the
Captain sighs and once again explains the entire thing.
This time the Island King
is paying attention, gets the concept and successfully pours the gas
into our tank.
Ok, so now we've lost a
lot of credibility with the Captain but he still doesn't seem to
think we're complete idiots.
He's going home the way we
are so he says he'll follow us to the bayou just in case we have any
Off we go, under the
bridge and towards home.
I sweep the water ahead of
us and the Island King snarks at me to stop with the light because I
wasn't doing it right.
I'm not even going to
defend myself on this one. Unless you're facing the back of the boat
it's pretty damn hard to “do it wrong.”
“Fine (bad word), take
Not two minutes later we
look over and are passing a non blinking can with about 100 feet to
There may or may not have
been some cussing on my part and I immediately picked up the light
and started sweeping the channel again.
The Island King was more
than a little surprised himself and said “I bet the Sea Tow Captain
just said “Damn that was close.”
He doesn't say anything
else about my sweeping the channel but after a couple of minutes
we're both looking at the markers and realize that since we never
come this way, nothing looks familiar.
So we get to the marker
for the first bayou and head in towards it. It didn't take but a
minute to realize this wasn't the right bayou so we went a little
farther back out into the channel and continued onward.
We're scanning the
shoreline looking for something familiar and nothing looks right.
I've always said that I
could find Joe's Bayou because there's a water tower right at the end
of it that has a blinking red light on it.
I see the water tower and
tell the Island King that's where we need to go.
He doesn't agree but once
I explained the water tower theory to him he agreed this was it and
Meanwhile, Sea Tow has
stopped out in the channel and is just idling there, thinking who
We get closer to the bayou
and realize it's not the right one either.
Well I'll be.
This bayou has a water
tower at the end of it too.
We turn around and cruise
back out into the channel, where Sea Tow is waiting.
“Just call the Captain
and ask where the damn bayou is!”
Of course, we had his
number since we'd talked to him earlier when we called for help.
The Island King called him
and blamed it all on me, saying that I made him call because I
thought we were lost.
Which is pretty funny if
you think about it. I've been with this man for 30 years and I've
NEVER been able to make him do something he didn't want to do.
Ok so by man code you have
to blame me to save face with the Captain. I don't care.
I know now that the
Captain DOES believe we're complete idiots and it just didn't matter,
I just wanted to find Joe's Bayou.
The Captain tells him that
he'll lead so we get behind him and continue on.
We both kept trying to
decide what was what on the shore but just never could.
Until we came around the
point and suddenly we were back in home territory and everything
Sea Tow idled in the
channel and pointed his light on the markers at the entrance of the
That fact that he sat
there with his light pointing the way until we were well into the
bayou proved my assumption that he believed we were idiots had to be
Finally, hours later, we
made it back to the ramp and home.
The Island King has
finally admitted that taking an extra gas can would have been a good
idea but he refuses to admit that he had no idea where the bayou was
either and that while I may have suggested it, he called the Captain
for directions on his own accord.
Later, one of the kids
asked why we didn't pull gps up on our phones and see where we were
in relation to the shoreline but that didn't actually occur to either
one of us.
The good news is, we had a
fun night on the water, we accomplished the mission of running all of
the gas out of the boat and we're a member of Sea Tow so we didn't
have to pay the $300.00 they charge non members who run out of gas at
10:00 on a Monday night.
The better news is that
the new VHF radio and the navigational system/bottom finder we
ordered will be here this week.
Boat captains might be
using cell phones these days but I'm positive they still have VHF so
they can talk to people like me. And since we can't remember to use
our phone's map, we've decided to go with old fashioned waterway
Hopefully, we won't need
them but we'll have them if we do.