Apr 2, 201410:24 AM
Running In Fog: HeartLand Boating Humor
Desert Island Mistake
Did I ever tell you about the time I was stranded on a desert island?” asked my companion.
“Uh, no, you never told me that one,” I answered. I started to gather my stuff, car keys, cell phone, purse and book. I never leave home without a book.
“Where are you going? Sit down, sit down. You have time to hear this one.”
Trapped. He was right. I did have the time. I settled back down. We were on his boat, the Bella Luna, rocking gently and safely in her berth.
“OK, I have the time, but only if you have the wine,” I answered.
“My Gretchen always keeps the larder stocked with wine, no problem there.”
He poured me a glass of red, deep and dark. Then, he settled back into his deck chair swirling his own glass of wine.
“OK, so tell me,” I said. The sun was setting and the breeze coming off of the water was cooler now than midday.
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away....”
“That’s it, I am leaving. I already know the ‘Star Wars’ story, the old stuff which is now the new stuff and the new stuff that tells the old stuff,
“Kidding, just kidding. OK, we took Bella Luna on the Circle Route.”
“The Great Loop, yeah, I knew that, but you never told me about your trip.”
“That’s because we messed it up and got lost. It’s a bit embarrassing. What makes it worse is that it was all my fault.”
He paused to sip his wine and stare out across the water. I remember when he and Gretchen decided to “do the Loop.” Most folks I know who cruised the Great Loop spend months or longer planning the trip. Sometimes, the trip takes years to plan. It is a huge undertaking and often means buying a new boat especially for this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
But it didn’t happen with my buddy and his wife. Personally, I thought he and Gretchen kinda woke up one morning and said, “Hey, want to go on a long boat trip today?” and off they went.
Truth be told, they have always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants couple. They would go on a three-week trip to Australia and only have reservations for three days. They would buy a camper, stock it with Twinkies and Chardonnay, and figure they’d fill up the pantry and the fuel tank someplace later on down the road.
You know the kind of people I am talking about — adventurous, with a streak of rebel in them. They always did things their own way. Their Great Loop adventure was obviously going to be no different.
“Didn’t it ever occur to you that a 6,000-mile boat journey may be a bit different that a quick cruise around the lake at sunset?”
“No way, of course it wouldn’t be any different! Why should it? I mean, really, it is an inland waterway surrounded by the plentiful United States of America. Why, I figured we could just park our dear Bella Luna at a Wal-Mart dock for the night.”
“Wal-Mart docks? Are you serious?”
“Totally serious. We thought there would be burger joints and Wal-Marts lining the waterway. No muss, no fuss. We thought it would be like traveling the interstate system, food and fuel at every exit. Just keep the bow between the channel markers.”
His eyes drifted off onto the horizon.
“Of course, you know the ICW isn’t that way at all. And you also know that I dislike following the beaten path. So, as Bugs Bunny was fond of saying, ‘We must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque.’”
“Is this where the desert island comes into the story?”
“Uh, yeah. Gretchen calls it the Desert Island Mistake. But it wasn’t really a desert. And it surely wasn’t deserted. It was, um, well, it was mostly just embarrassing.”
I am not really a patient person. I like to get to the point right away. Even listening to long jokes makes me antsy to reach the punch line. I start to squirm and fidget and wiggle my toes. I was doing this now.
“Keep going, tell me what happened.”
“Well, there are a few really important things to remember about cruising the ICW. This is stuff most people should research ahead of time, but, as usual, we only found out in the midst of the trip. Those things are: 1. Be aware of your fuel stops, especially on the Mississippi. 2. Stay between the channel markers at all times. And 3. Make sure, oh make sure, your boat doesn’t draw too much water.”
“Right. I know all of this stuff.”
“Yeah, well, we didn’t. We got to feeling a bit rebellious. So, we got to Islamorada and instead of heading up the coast toward Marco Island, we decided to take a side trip and head west.”
“And that put you smack in....”
“Right. Smack is the right word. It put us smack on the beach in Key West.”
“Did you say ‘on the beach?’”
“Yep. I still don’t know how it happened, how we missed the sound of the breakers, how we missed the whole bloody beach. But we did. And smack. We put Bella Luna on her side on the beach. The insurance company called it ‘operator error.’”
“Key West, huh?”
“Yeah. Like I said, neither deserted nor a desert island per se. But it was a bit shocking. It all seemed to happen in slow motion.”
I started to laugh then, that quiet kind of laugh that builds and builds until the giggles seem to take over and I can’t breathe.
“Yeah, it’s funny now. But it wasn’t too funny then. But I will tell you something. I’ve done the Great Loop a couple of times since then. It is beautiful and amazing and worth every minute, every penny, every bit of effort.”
“But?” I asked.
“But all the other times, we prepared well in advance. No more jump in the boat and go. Heck, now I even keep charts on board!”
Good grief, charts, the man actually bought charts. And it only took the demise of his beloved Bella Luna to teach him to plan ahead.
“Where are you headed next? Another trip around the Great Loop?”
“Yep, but this time I was thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to cruise the Bermuda Triangle?”
Obviously, he still hadn’t completely learned his lesson, has he?