INCIDENTS OF My TRAVELS to
NEVER SEEKING ADVENTURE YET ADVENTURE FINDS ME
Nov 1988 Travel in the Kodiak Archipelago- Boat Ride Underestimation of Conditions
Setting off on our trip we experience an unexpected problem...
We got started. Bobbing down to the mouth of the lagoon that leads to open waters. To pump out the excess water collected in the bottom of boat during the storm I use a hand held pump whose hose continually ejected after two or three attempts to siphon the mess, practically useless as it required constant repair, Jim scooped the excess water from his side of the skiff with a small bucket. We made some progress but soon the wild waters of the pacific would splash into our vessel making this beginning effort moot.
Traveling south toward the inlet we checked our buoyancy. Making sure that the load, especially the motorbike, was evenly distributed and would not dip us below the waterline. Of course, in the steady waters of the lagoon this check was conclusive. The water level just under twelve inches from the lip we were certain we were well prepared to go out to open water.
But as we rounded the inlet we looked out to an overcast horizon over jagged water ridges we soon realized that the calm waters were surely behind us. The sea was frenetic, choppy white heads as far as the eye can see, yet for a few feet from the mouth the waters were calm. Jim and I eye each other, questioning the same phenomenon. With the wind howling where we could not communicate without shouting so we nodded our mutual agreement to continue on, a side sway of the head indicating “cautiously”. So with the on-board motor puttering we veered out a bit more. For a few feet the calm before the chop was steady, two mortals daring the rage of the surf.
At the edge of the calm and the froth of a crashed surf bubbling away around the bow our forward momentum was halted, suddenly we bottomed out.
Apparently during the recent squall, the storm drove the bed of sand toward the shore creating a reef just under the water level. The reason for the calm before the waves. We have beached ourselves just shy of the beach. And no amount of maneuvering with the motor would dislodge us. Forward, reverse, increase and decrease of speed, we were stuck. And now our boat was being broadsided the force of incoming waves, rocking us in place and threatening to overturn us. I grab the one oar and push against shifting sands. No movement.
“We got to do something!” Jim yells. “Those waves will surely tip us over!”
Though as close as we were to shore the swim in uncertain waters was not recommended. Undertow current bound to draw us further out to sea than allow us to near the shore, compounded by cold waters that would induce hypothermia within a few minutes of exposure.
I nod in agreement and consider for a minute. “I’ve got an idea!” I shout back.
With that I step out of the skiff and step on the sandy reef which at that point was a few inches under the surface. Several meters away off the shore and I am standing on the water surface next to the beached skiff. I calculated that being layered in rain gear I would keep most of that cold water off me and minimizing the risk of hypothermia, and it did with the exception of a small hole burnt on the inside of my left boot by the ankle. Water trickled in and soaked my sock and feet with the cold water immediately. Yet, despite the discomfort, I dig my feet into the reef and start pushing the skiff over the ridge to dislodge it. Heavy as it was and with Jim pushing the motor in odd angles the skiff gives bit by bit.
“Now?!” I yell for confirmation from Jim that the skiff is navigable.
Pushing a bit more I feel myself descending on the leading edge of the sand shelf. Water level rising to my knees. Still it was not enough to clear the ledge. So I keep pushing. Waist deep, “Nope!” he reports. I reach to my chest when the skiff finally runs free.
“OK! Get back in!”
With an exhale of relief, I pull at the skiff to get back into it. Unfortunately, my plastic overalls and a coat, now logged with water, made me heavier than expected. I was not only pulling my weight but that of collected water. Exhausted from the push I now hung on to the boat, toes barely registering the ocean floor as we floated away. The frigidity of the water against my skin was just now registering.
“Quit horsing around!”
“I can’t! Too heavy!!” The excess weight of water, and the futility of my feet failing to find a purchase against the hull of the skiff to push myself up causes me to panic.
Realizing the severity of the situation Jim rushes over to help drag me back on board. Due to the slickness of the rain-gear fails to be able to grasp and hold any part of me to pull me in. Without a second thought he grabs an oar so he can lever me up, his entire body weigh as a counterweight. With enough of me out of water he pulls me in by my overall straps while I push my knee against the lip. After a Herculean effort from the both of us I finally flopped in like a prize catch. I lay there at the bottom trying to calm my breath as water drains from my rain-gear. Shivering from the exposure, but mostly the realization of my mortality, I try to regain my courage to continue.
The skiff continues its forward momentum uncaring of the peril its human passengers endure.
Jim wasting no time returns to the rear and gets the motor turned and we are back on our way, wondering if there will be any more unexpected obstacles for the remainder of the trip.
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About the Author
I have always ended up in unexpected places. So I present a collection of my tales told over the years. Places that due to circumstances I might never go on my own accord.