My boat dumped into the water. Gear went flying, and floating. The bow went completely underwater, and my vessel filled up like a cup of tea. This is the first time this has ever happened. My Sea Eagle was being towed by a powerboat; and, I was convinced, so convinced, that not only were these tough little inflatables indestructible but they could do basket weaving, fire rocket launchers from their pontoons, and do flips and barrel rolls with one rope tied behind their backs. Not so; the boats can indeed (and did!) dump completely into the water… and I’m starting to believe that they can’t do basket weaving or interpret Spanish like the manual said. 🙂
First things first: I’m okay. I was physically unhurt which is a big plus. Actually and interestingly, when I was watching my camp gear do its best to sink itself to the bottom of Lake Pepin,
I wasn’t too fazed. I was actually observing this scenario as the speed boat driver, Justin (Justin Staker from a previous post) threw on his life jacket, started barking orders for me to throw on mine, and apologized to me all at the same time. Despite the orders, I jumped in the water sans life jacket. “My camera!” I shouted, “that’s the only important thing!”
“What the…” He was incredulous. “Grab your camp gear!”
F that. I can replace the camp gear, my clothes, etc., etc. but not that footage. I am a world famous cameraman! How dare you implore me to save my tent!
Justin jumped in the water. He felt so bad. We were flailing around not sure what to do. Again, I was surprisingly calm. I was just kinda like, Well, I mean, shit, if it goes down, it goes down. That camera though… Holy balls! I will dive to the bottom of the earth to get it! Justin was swimming trying to gather things. My boat was was completely overturned. The bungee cords I use to strap in my gear were holding my backpack, food bag and marine battery for dear life. These little babies, however, were taking on more and more water and getting heavier and heavier. The bungees looked at me: “I ccccaan’t hollld on mmmmmuch loonnngerr.”
“Stay with your kayak!” Justin shouted. If we both swam away from the boats, the waves could carry the speed boat/kayak tandem contraption away, and we’d be two morons in the middle of the lake who not only lost Ryan’s kayak but also Justin’s dad’s speed boat, lol. I latched onto the rope holding the two boats together and started pulling the speed boat toward us. I just gotta get that f-ing camera on the big boat. F all the rest.
“Let’s try and flip it!” Justin says.
“What? My boat? Oh, don’t even worry… let’s just get most of the stuff…”
He ignores me and climbs on top of the Sea Eagle attempting to use his weight to turn it over. Nothing doing. It’s too slippery; there’s nothing to grab on to. Justin is getting frustrated. I try to throw my camera and dry box, which contains electronics and other important things, onto his boat. Justin says it’s no use trying to swim after the gear and that he’ll have to try to flip the kayak from his boat. My clothing sack, cooking gear, dry bags that Patrick Hanlon gave me in the Twin Cities are all floating. It’s rather comical. I know if I lose this stuff I’m going to have to buy more with who knows what money; but, somehow it’s all okay. It’s all okay to lose all this stuff, I think. It’s just stuff after all. Justin feels so bad. He’s still apologetic as he barks more orders: “Okay, I’m getting on the boat!”
“Okay,” I say, “I’m going to hand you some of this crap; it’s full of water.” I’m semi-laughing.
He leaps onto the boat. “Okay, give it to me!”
I hand him my battery. It is a 30 pound marine battery stuffed in trash bags. The trash bags are full of water, and the whole bunch is about a foot under water. I reach to grab it and can’t find anything to grab! Crap! I’m going to lose this damn battery! I start laughing to myself. I mean this is so freaking comical. This is funny, man, ha ha ha. I contemplate briefly telling Justin that my sack is full and I need to empty it, ha ha ha. His face is stern, serious; he feels so responsible. I try to put jokes out of my mind by focusing on the practical. He’s gonna kill me if I make jokes now, I think. By some act of divine intervention I find the handle to the battery and hand it to him. With the water it weighs about 50 pounds. Justin lifts it up. His eyes are wild. Imagine a young bald man freaking out, pissed off, apologetic, businesslike, in survival mode, in holy shit! mode, (he’s a trained physical therapist so he’s in…) damage-control-paramedic-crisis-avert mode… It was crazy! I’ve never seen a man thinking, doing, and feeling so many things at once. In the middle of all this… I’m calm. I have no idea why. I’m probably the most likely candidate for a no-holds-barred, balls-to-the-wall, good old-fashioned freak out: I don’t really have more money to buy more gear, I was in the middle of a lake, didn’t know where the hell I was, thought Justin was a great guy but didn’t really know him too well or how he would react in this situation, and OH! have a history of mental health issues. Sooooo, all in all, this was a ripe old time for me to start punching the anxiety attack time clock! (VRRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOWWWWW! The anxiety horn has sounded. All manic-depressives get back to work. Especially you, Ryan Jeanes. VVVRRRRROOOOWWWW!) But I remained calm. I was Jesus upon the sea, Buddha in front of the insulting man. Something came over me. This’ll all be fine, I said. Why add fuel to the fire? It’s not going to do any good to get mad. Simultaneously, I will say, I was trying to save my stuff. I mean, c’mon, it’s not at the bottom of the lake just yet!
Justin hopped onto the stern of the boat. Wild man, wild eyed! “Hand me your green pack!” he said. Holy crap, there’s no way he’s lifting this! This thing is 50 pounds dry. It’s gotta be 75 logged with water. I pull it out from under the bungee. It starts sinking toward the bottom. Fuck! I lift it up; my body sinks. This is retarded, I think. Somehow I get the head of the bag pinned to the side of Justin’s boat. He leaps over and grabs the straps. No freaking way, I think. His eyes get about twice their normal size. This dude has some strength. Even though his feet are slipping on the fiberglass deck he lifts, I mean power cleans that mother effer! onto the boat. How the hell did he do that? I hand him the rest of my things that are bungeed. He flips my boat upright (without my help!) and scrambles for the steering wheel. “I’m going to go get the rest of your stuff!” he shouts. My clothing bag is floating. Other things are floating. It’s soooooo daaammmmnnn commmical! You ever see that Tom Hanks movie Road to Perdition? And the little kid asks Daniel Craig (doesn’t he make a good James Bond!) why he’s smiling, and he looks at the kid and says, “Cuz it’s all so f—ing hysterical.”? That’s exactly how I felt – this was so flipping, farging, freaging (happy, mom?) hysterical. (Although I know Phillip didn’t think it was too funny when I told him. :))
I grab my kayak. “Stay in your boat,” Justin says. He’s turning his boat around while untying the Sea Eagle at the same time. “Don’t worry,” I tell him as I dolphin plane myself up onto the left pontoon and swing my legs into my seat. “I’ll…” He’s gone. He throttles the boat far away searching for floating debris, er, gear. He looks like a coast guardsman looking for a drowning passenger off a sunken boat Cool, I think, I get to be out here alone a while! (I know! Of course I should have been more serious, but I wasn’t! Sorry. I promise to be twice as serious tomorrow…. naaaaaat!) . I turn my bow into the waves to break them. They’re about 3 feet – not Lake Winnie size but big. Big enough to sink my boat. I’m bouncing around as the waves lift me up and slam me down. Fun! I feel comfortable. You know what you’re doing, Ryan, I say to myself. You’ve been in similar situations and you can handle it! :)!
Justin whips his boat within 10 feet of me. “I found most your stuff!” he shouts. “Good, let’s get out of here,” I say. “I th…” I say.
Vrrrrrooooommmmm! He’s gone again. Gaaaaaddddammit, I think. “I gotttaaaa finddd your cooking stuff!” he shouts back.
“Um, no, that’s not important. It costs like 10 bucks at Wally World, uhhh, shit, he’s gone.”
So comical. I can understand Justin’s postion though. He feels responsible. A health professional, he’s trained in the caretaking arts and wants me to be safe, happy, comfortable not just now but in the weeks to come. It’s my fault, he thinks. My dad’s going to kill me, he thinks. Ryan’s never going to want to be my friend again, he thinks. He’s wrong. I do want him to be my friend. None of us could have predicted the boat would have taken on that much water as it was towed along. The fill-up happened gradually, and all my stuff was stuffed in the front. I was going to get in it soon, remember? Justin even had suggested we tow it from the back; but, I poo-poohed the idea because the directional stabilizer (non-controlled rudder) was in the back, and I was too worried it’d be tracking all over the place. I was wrong. Neither one of us could have predicted the Sea Eagle would ride the perfect wave to make the bow surf 7 feet off the water’s baseline and crash headlong into the sea. No one could have predicted the tension on the rope would have pulled that bow further under water ultimately causing the flip. It was like a dream when it happened. I couldn’t believe it. All was in slow motion. Holy crap, I thought, ha ha, my boat’s fucking sinking! Ha ha! Again, it was crazy. I was so zen-like and detatched. Buddha would have been proud. Phillip only fumed, ha ha.
When all my gear finally found its way to the speed boat’s floor, I got in and sat in the passenger chair. I was laughing. Justin was still trying to apologize. “I couldn’t save the cooking stuff.” “Pffft!” I laughed. “Cooking, schmooking.” I think he cracked a smile.
We pulled into Dan’s Pepin Marina in Pepin, WI. “Just play the pity card,” Justin implored me. “I have no cash on me, and they’re supposed to charge you 9 bucks to dock here. “Hey!” I said to the teen working the docks. He had a clipboard and a pen. He indeed looked like a taxman at a busy port ready to inspect your goods for smuggled rum. “I dumped my boat out on the lake. Yeah, I’m a moron.” I said. This teen looked a little too smart. He didn’t believe that I could have just straight dumped it on my own. The scenario we were going for was that stupid kayaker dumps boat and seasoned boatsman Justin Staker comes to save the day. “Just let this little dumbass stay here a while and get cleaned up, Justin would say. “Yap, yap, yap, I had to fish this little turd out of the water. He duddn’t have any money (tightens belt) so go easy on him, yap. So I played the chump and it worked. An older gentleman came on the dock and brushed the disapproving teen aside. “You tipped your boat?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said as if my prized turtle had just died.
“All right. It’s only temporary, so it’s okay.”
“Great!” I chirped up. “Where’s your crapper! I gotta go!” I left abruptly. Justin’s mouth was open.
When I came back, Justin had my battery open and was airing it out. “I think it’ll survive,” he says. “Hey,” he pulls me aside, “thanks for modifying that story a bit.” “Anything to save a friend’s pride,” I say. “Hell, I’ll take the heat; they’ll never see me again,” I laugh. “They shore gonna see you!!”
I rearranged my stuff and paddled out. I felt good. I don’t know why, but I (can’t believe I’m saying this) liked this experience.
I pulled into a bar made famous by the movie Grumpy Old Men, Slippery’s in Wabasha, Minnesota. Justin had told me if I wanted anything (“Anything at all!” he told me.) to call him when I got to Slippery’s. “Hey bud,” I said when I called him. “I want to fix my bed sheet sail, so if you got some screws and a power drill, you’ll be my personal hero.” “No problem,” he said. Justin arrived with not only the fix-er-ups but also a compass, new water shoes (I lost mine in the debacle), and a new bungee cord. What a friend! What a guy! I sensed, after he helped fix the yard of my sail, that he really wanted to leave. This was too much for one day. Too much interaction, too much experience at one time. He needed some time alone to regroup and reprocess.
I got an email from Justin a day later:
Hey I saw you are being towed again, make sure this person is qualified would you? Is your marine radio working? If you need more help in Lacrosse I have some contacts that may be able to give you a lift. I was a bit worried about you. I feel like i have a stake/responsibility for you now. Weird. Much luck and I will keep an eye on your progress via the web.
What a cool guy, yes, no? Yes, my dear J to the S, you do have a stake in it. We all have a stake in it. The success of the River is all our responsibility. My success is as much Jack and Shelly in Aitkin, MN’s success, is as much the Moberg’s success, is everyone we’ve met along the way’s success as it is mine. I am but a man in a vessel. Without your help, without all your help, all of you reading this blog, all of you cheering me and Phillip on, we will not make it period. We all have responsibility… for eachother.
Thank you, one and all, again. Next time hear about the craziness at Slippery’s (yeah! after Justin left!), and about the Heins who give me another tow to their cabin (I refused to get out of the boat!) and claim I’m being taken to some group sex fantasy land. (No, I’m not lying.) Turns out they were more sarcastic than kinky, and that they had a dryer for my sopping clothes (which was tons more important at the time than any Nero-sized orgy could have been.)
Adios, my muchachos. There is more, much more, to come.