Does your boat sink?

I have a very good friend back east that is world renowned for getting fantastic deals. Another friend used to joke (that lets call him “Steve”) would negotiate by standing in one place and shuffling his feet while hemming and hawing back and forth until the person he was negotiating with would give up from mental exhaustion and just give Steve whatever he wanted. By the way what in tarnation does hemming and hawing mean anyway? I digress, on one such occasion early on in our high school careers Steve managed to convince a neighbor that they should give him their boat. Now before you wonder how Steve managed this… consider the fact that the neighbors were storing the boat in the bottom of their pond. It was at least 6 feet under water and they wanted the boat out of the pond. It had been there for quite some time. Apparently they had unhooked the boat from the truck and before they had realized it the trailer and boat rolled down the hill and into the pond. I know, I know that’s entertaining stuff right there but it’s not important to the narrative of the story. My ingenious friend managed to get some sort of towing implement from his tractor attached to the trailer and hauled it back out of the pond. They were so happy to have their unobstructed pond back that they gave Steve the 20 HP boat motor that they had stored in the barn. Yes a free working boat motor, I expect you are starting to see how Steve earned his reputation as a world class scrounger. Not even out of high school and he already had his own boat and motor.

Well despite Steve’s reputation as being cheap he is actually rather generous with his friends. He and a few of his good friends, me included decided we would take Steve’s boat up to the thousand islands to do some carp shooting. The St Lawrence Seaway is a huge body of water and has some of the largest carp you will ever see. We booked a room at the local motel that we affectionately called the meadow muffin Inn. Who knows what the real name was but despite our nick name for it, it was clean and cheap. Perfect for the young adults we were. It wasn’t long before we had Steve’s boat out on the water hunting the elusive carp. OK well maybe they aren’t very allusive but elusive sounds more dramatic doesn’t it? After a full day of shooting at carp one after another we decided for the next day, we needed to go in search of the real big trophy sized carp.

We reviewed the charts and found what looked like a large flat on the edge of some really deep water and off the flat was some marshy areas perfect for spawning. It looked like the nirvana of carp habitat. OK so it was right on the boarder of the international boundary of Canada but as teenagers we weren’t too concerned about silly borders or steel bars for that matter. This was the home of the monster fish after all and we needed to be there. At the crack of dawn we were sitting at the boat launch, the water was flat and calm as a mirror. The sound of distant ship horns seemed to call us like the sirens of the deep. We had chosen a route around the bottom of the island and once there we used the electric motor to fish our way along this massive flat area. Much like the disappointment one feels after opening all of the Christmas presents to find you didn’t get what you wanted, we were left wondering where all the carp were. Sure we saw some, but the mountain of 50 pound fish we had convinced ourselves would be stacked in there like cord wood, apparently had gone on holiday.

Dejected tired and hungry we wanted to get back to our side of the river and formulate a new fool proof plan for the next major carp scheme. We took a peak at the maps and decided that a straight shot across the river was our best bet. OK so the wind was now blowing at thirty miles an hour and the main channel was well over 100 feet deep, those were trivial matters, it was the shortest way back and so off we went. As we crested the top of the island we began to realize that once again we may have made a tactical error. The deep water, High winds and seriously aggressive river currents were creating a chop on the water that was 4 or 5 feet tall. This was a 16 or 18 foot boat so that was some serious turbulence for us. Have you ever been around a group of young men all wanting to prove that they weren’t terrified by their own stupidity? No? Well I can tell you it can be a dangerous mix of bluster and bravado. As we all agreed we would not be deterred we fired up the gas motor and off we went. There was something that was nagging me at the back of my mind but the terror and anxiety I was feeling was making it hard for me to focus on exactly what it was. The first big wave we traversed managed to catch up with us and a couple of gallons of water spilled over the transom. That seemed to be only a minor issue but the second wave was a bit more aggressive. By the time we got Steve’s attention we were taking on water at what seemed like 20 or 30 gallons a second. Perhaps it’s the calm one feels when faced with mortal danger but that nagging concern finally came to me. This boat had been procured from the bottom of a pond so there really is no debating if it fills with water IT WILL SINK! I took one look at my bow and all my equipment and thought to myself it’s been nice knowing ya.

All pretense of machismo vanished, the three of us were yelling and screaming and crying for our mommas. Luckily, unlike when he is negotiating, Steve is able to move rather quickly when he has too. He whipped the boat around and gunned it for the shore. It was a race to see what would happen first, sink or run aground. Turns out it was a bit of a tie. We did both we ran aground when we sunk. The water was lapping over the transom as the boat was sitting comfortably on the shore. Lucky for us the motor was still mostly dry. Between a bucket and a board we were able to scoop and push enough water out of the back of the boat to get the transom above the water line. We frantically bailed more water out before a random wave sunk us again. It was touch and go there for a while but we managed to get the boat back afloat. Through some carful plotting we were able to navigate a safer route back across the river. It was only when we were back and enjoy the comforts of the Meadow Muffin Inn that it really sunk in (so to speak) just how lucky we were not to have spent the night on a deserted island in the middle of the St Lawrence Seaway.

Now what does this have to do with Bowhunter education? Well to be honest not a whole lot since there isn’t a section on boater safety but it was a fun story about carp shooting that I wanted to share with you and there are a lot more fun and educational stories waiting for you at your next bowhunter education class. Sign up today. Class schedules are available at the WDFW website.