Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Round Six--Thursday, August 3, 2006

The cove is so quiet this morning, partly due to the fact that because the tide is low, nobody can come in, nor leave. Very peaceful with blue skies, a slight breeze and a little nip in the air. It is fun to watch people as they get up and quietly go thrugh their routines. There is a woman on an adjoining boat eating a bowl of cereal on her swimstep. Another person, I notice, has spent the night in a hammock on his boat’s bow, and is just trying to roll out of it. Others are sitting quietly in their cockpits, drinking coffee. Many still haven’t woken up, though its nearly 8. I have yet to hear anybody start up their skiffs.

There is a boat next to us with a bunch of teenage kids. They seem to have a lot of fun together, have been swimming and playing around on the decks. As Tim mentioned, it’s a great environment for children--I wish I was able to offer this lifestyle to my own kids in a way that was palatable to them, but alas, they have yet to express any interest. Some of my favorite memories as a kid were from being around the water.

Finally, the tide got high enough where we were able to slip through the channel and into open water, on our way to Pendrell Sound, well-known as the warmest body of water in the region, where temps frequently get into the mid-70s. We reached the head of the bay near noon, under perfect conditions. No wind, not too much boat traffic and warm temps. We got the skiff set up for water skiing, had a couple great runs (picture to come) and maybe had the best 2-3 hours of the entire trip.

We headed out of the bay at around 130 or so and suddenly noticed in 4 teenaged boys in the water, 2 or 300 yards directly in front of us, waving their arms. We didn't really know what to think, but supposed their boat had sunk and that they needed to be picked up. None of them was wearing a lifevest. We cut our speed and reluctantly headed toward them, knowing that some kind of hassle probably awaited us. We had no idea how true that was going to be.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a 16 or 17' skiff came speeding in front of us, and Tim and I felt some relief as it seemed that somebody else was going to beat us to the rescue, and we could continue on our merry way to the next anchorage. Alas, it was not meant to be, as seconds later we noticed nobody was actually in the boat, that it was running loose across the bay at about 30mph and tha somehow those kids must have been bounced out. We nervously approached the kids, still waving their arms, and kept a wary eye on the runaway skiff, which was making a bee-line for the port shore, about a quarter mile away.

I was anticipating a neat crash onto the beach, when at the last minute the skiff made a turn and started toward the opposite shore on this 1/2 mile wide bay, where once again it looked like it was going to crash and burn. Again, at the last possible moment, it made another turn, like it had some kind of morbid sense of direction. It was now heading, roughly speaking towards us and the kids, but was poised to pass well behind our stern.

As we got ever-closer to the kids, the unmanned skiff started turning sharper and sharper and it was now looking like it was just going to miss our own skiff, which we were towing about 30' behind. We sped up the boat, as the skiff was turning sharper and sharper but we had little maneuvering, as the kids were now directly in front of our bow. Marian II, like most boats of her type, responded reluctantly and was not a match for the much faster skiff. Sure enough, the runaway skiff ran straight across the stern of our own skiff, ripping off the motor, destroying the starboard pontoon and ripping down the control console, all without even slowing down. The loose skiff was to continue running around the bay for another fifteen minutes, finally running out of gas.

The die was cast, the vacation was ruined. The expected hassles ensued. An angry and somewhat distraught Tim picked up the kids, who were returned to their parents, who seemed equally distraught. Insurance discussions and cleaning up the mess to make our skiff tow-able were finished and a few hours later we were off to Grace Harbor, to consider our options.

It was not one of our pleasanter cruises and Tim passed that night fitfully, no doubt wondering what to do. Here he was with me scheduled to go back the next day via float plane, his wife and several friends due to come up on Sunday, and more family coming up the following week. But he had no skiff, no way to get to shore, no backup in case of emergency. And besides, the skiff was just a lot of fun, whether it being for water skiing, whale watching or just covering a lot of ground quickly.

It was finally decided the next morning to cancel the rest of the vacation and bring the boat back to Seattle. Tim felt much better after the decision was made to go home and the cruise down was actually fairly pleasant, with Tim showing amazing resiliency, considering all that he had been through.

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