Saturday, July 18, 2009

Captain's Log, #3

Trip #6: Squeaky Shores

I was chatting with a co-worker about my after-work solo explorations of nearby lakes. She said, "Have you checked out Squeaky Shores? It's big, about a thousand acres, and it's great for fishing and swimming. Plus it's just down the road from here."

Yes, I did consider Squeaky Shores. But for some reason I'd ruled it out. Why was that? Hmm. Couldn't recall... Sure sounded worth a look.

The setting was like a postcard from summer camp: a wide and peaceful expanse of water with scattered reeds poking up from the shallows. Nearby were woods filled with chirping birds. In the distance I could hear the slow fluted ooooh-eeee! of the loons.

The boat launch wasn't great. Power lines right over it. WTF? What is it with all these motorboat dudes? Where are the sailors? On the endangered list now?

Happily I found a thin strip of sandy beach where I could launch and park without too much trouble. The wind was light and at my back so I set out wing on wing.

A few hundred yards from shore the breeze was better. The joy comes at a certain acceleration and I was starting to feel it. I turned toward the shoreline to catch the broad reach.

Suddenly, THUNK! and a dead stop.

"Oh!" I said, as I jumped to yank in the centerboard and uncleat the downhaul on my rudder. A dog began to bark. I was busy tying the main sheet to something when a woman appeared at a nearby dock. She asked if I needed help, then explained that "this entire area" had large rocks just below the surface.

"I take it the lake is pretty shallow."

"Well, in the middle out there it's a good thirteen feet."

Oh yeah, Squeaky Shores... I remembered why I'd decided to give it a miss. Thirteen feet is no problem. But if that's the lake's deepest point, much of it must be four to five feet and no doubt littered with rocks.

I pointed the boat onto a reverse reach and back to a safer depth. As I turned to tack my way toward the car I glanced up at the sky and caught the red sun snuffing out behind the mountains.

The light breeze vanished. I half-expected this to happen. Earlier I'd replaced the yellow-thing-that-sucks-ass aka "the paddle" with a longer telescoping oar that wasn't half bad. And I had my new rudder-swim trick to play with. Sure, paddling to shore might take an hour or so. No problemo. The night air was sweet and I was feeling good just being outdoors.

I rudder-swam for a few minutes then switched to paddling for comparison. Paddling on one side turns the boat requiring compensation with the rudder, wasting a little energy. Switching paddle sides keeps the boat moving forward, but wastes time as it means getting up and re-seating, unless you're right at the bow where you can reach the water on both sides of the boat. But sitting on the bow deck with no control over the sails or rudder while alone on a sailboat is just asking for some kinda freak accident. Oars and oar locks would be great. But my little racing boat hasn't a place for them.

After a few minutes of puttering I concluded that paddling moves the boat better than ruddering. But ruddering is easier and more fun.

Then something I didn't expect happened and my lazy meandering toward the beach came to a dead halt. And it occurred to me that I was now stuck in the middle of an unfamiliar lake with the darkness deepening. Oh crap. Crapity crap.

I checked my cell phone in case I wanted to call my husband for a rescue. That would have to be a last resort as home was over an hour's drive away. The display said, "Looking for service..."

Effin' Sprint! Piss on you and your patchy network!


Goddam mosquitos.


Fuckin' A!


Jesus, why are so many out here in the middle of the lake? Don't they want the shoreline?

I shook a dozen or so off each leg, then saw my arms.

Swat! Swat! Swat!

WTF?? What is this, some kinda horror flick?

The beasties set about my ears and eyelashes. Oh fuckety fuck! The attack was truly maddening.

Before launching I'd coated myself with DEET. When my daggerboard hit the rock I slipped in waist deep briefly to re-orient the boat. Some DEET likely washed away. Still, I stunk of it. Yet the mosquitoes didn't seem to care.

I knelt on a float-pad, tucking my legs under me to protect them from the swarm while I tried to paddle. Pausing to swat the fuckers off my face halved my already pathetically slow progress. The beach didn't seem to be getting any closer.

I wondered, could I ignore a mosquito swarm for an hour to save my life? Yeah, sure, if utterly convinced that swatting the bastards off my skin might mean certain death. But I wasn't quite there yet.

A party-pontoon crossing the lake drew nearer. From the deepening gloom to starboard a voice shouted, "Need any help?"

"Perhaps..." I said. Which way you headed?"

"Same direction as you."

"Well then, I wouldn't mind a tow. The mosquitoes here are eating me alive."

"Yeah, they're bad tonight."

And so I was saved.

The driver took the end of the painter clipped to my bow and tied it to to a cleat at his stern. He hit the gas. I held my rudder and surfed the power wake thinking, "Get the bug spray. Get the bug spray. Get the bug spray. See it on the floor behind the passenger's seat."

Once landed I thanked the kindly strangers. (Does it worry me how often I've needed their assistance since this boat mania struck me last summer? Yes, a little.)

A few seconds later I had the car unlocked and the insect repellant in hand.


As I understand, DEET does not kill skeeters. It merely makes them go, "Ew, dat no smell gud..." and causes them to move a few inches away from you. However, if you spray the little buggers 'til they're dripping with it, they do seem somewhat disoriented.

Unforseen complication #2: As I was about to leave, I couldn't find my car key. In my urgent mission toward the bug spray I didn't note where I'd set it after opening the door. I should have stuck it in the ignition. Or perhaps back into my only pocket, the one on the PFD. Or maybe in the drink holder next to the driver's seat. Any other spot would be silly. Did it fall into the sand? What if it's lost? How will I get home?

Two hours later I finally found the key under some stuff near the hatch in the back. How did it get there? What was I thinking?

Better remind myself to pay special attention to the key after I unlock the door from this moment forward.

Yeah, right, that'll work.

Better get a Hide-a-Key for this car. Two of them. ASAP.

1 comment:

  1. Re: overhead powerlines.
    Trees can be worse. Once sailed too close to shore, returning to the trailer. Standing near the bow, looked up just in time to see forestay break a dead tree limb toward my head! Blocked it with the boat hook (hurray for karate class). Capt. Dad was pissed that I dented the aluminum shaft of the hook . . . :D