The other day, we took the big boat ( as opposed to the canoe or kayak) out on the lake. For those of you unfamiliar, we have a place on Long Lake in the center of the Adirondack Mountains. The house came with a boat because the previous owner had no use for it where he was retiring. And like all good boats, it’s become a curse.
The first summer we had the house, two summers ago, the boat was murder to start. Granted, my husband and I know nothing of boats, especially 30 year-old waterskiing boats, but we were pretty sure that when you turn the key and press the throttle forward, it was supposed to start. The kids, being youngish teen boys, loved the boat. So it was with trepidation that my husband would trudge the steps to the dock, hoping the boat would start so that we could take the boys and their friends for joy rides.
When the boat did start, and sometimes it surprised us by starting on the first try, it was an absolute thrill. The boys loved taking turns driving it and the boat offered the opportunity to make our way all the way to the North end of the lake, four miles from our camp, to get a good look at the High Peaks.
That’s exactly where we found ourselves the other day, on the North end of the lake. Our older son had brought a friend with us for the week and the boy’s one wish was to go out on the boat. When the rainy and gray weather that’s been slithering across the East Coast finally gave way to sun and warmth, out we went. The boat started right away and with big smiles, we pulled out of our dock. Perhaps the curse had been lifted with the old battery we’d replaced, or maybe it had been connected to the ignition that also had been replaced. Each boy took a turn at the helm and it was while our younger son was driving that the boat gave a few strangled coughs and died.
So there we were, floating on the lake four miles from our camp with not another boat in sight. My husband tried starting it again and again, to no avail. We let it rest and tried again. Meanwhile, a huge thundercloud loomed just off our port side. I sat facing in the opposite direction figuring, like a stubborn child, that if I couldn’t see the cloud, then it didn’t exist. The older boys, meanwhile, had found an oar. One oar. They took turns trying to propel us toward the closest dock. One oar for a 19 ft boat with five people aboard. They did move us forward, trading that oar back and forth between the two of them, about a quarter of a mile in twenty minutes. By that time, the gorgeous sun we’d been wishing for was feeling pretty hot. The boys stripped off t-shirts and I threw sunscreen at them.
I’d brought my phone so that I could snap some photos, so even though I had no internet reception on the lake, I was able to make phone calls. We were limited, of course, to those people in my phone directory. First, I tried the guy who watches our house while we’re away. No answer. (Probably out saving some other family who had no idea how to start their boat). Next, the carpenter who’d finished our basement. (He was in the middle of a BBQ, but gave us the number of the town marina.)
The marina guy told me that he was short-handed couldn’t come out to help us “for a bit.” That’s Adirondack for “Could be twenty minutes, could be two days.” Maybe twenty more minutes past before we saw a boat passing on the other side of the lake. The boys waved life jackets while my husband honked the horn three times, which our son's friend told us is the international distress call. (Thanks to the show Dual Survival, he said.) The boat swung around and the men on board agreed to give us a tow, to the extent possible. Their boat was about half the size of ours.
We hadn’t gone far before the marina guy showed up. We could tell he was the marina guy both by the beard (summer men tend to be sport fresh-shaved faces while locals usually wear beards) and the work boots. (Waterproof, warm and good prevention of both poison ivy and snapping turtle bites, work boots are a far more utilitarian choice than our colorful Keen's or neon running sneakers.) Our marina guy allowed our saviors go on about their way and with more patience than I could imagine, boarded our boat, took a look at the engine and then started it without a problem.
Cursed, I tell you.
To his credit, the marina guy didn’t make fun of us for not knowing anything about our boat, he just said solemnly that it was “the nature of boats.” We made it back to the marina without a problem, drove in circles nearby to make sure the boat was fine, waved a thanks to the marina guy, and promptly stalled out three yards from our dock.
Now the boat is tied up to our dock, covered and not likely to get taken out again soon. I guess I’m holding a bit of a grudge. That, and trying to figure out how to release the curse. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy the sunsets.