A three hour tour….that was the plan.
My husband and I had finally found a sailboat. We’d been searching for just the right one since we moved to Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees in Oklahoma. This one was perfect. Old, but very clean and in excellent condition. It was located near the Pensacola Dam, and we’re in Honey Creek, approximately 20 miles away. We had bought it on Friday and were anxious to get it to our home ASAP. The small outboard motor that we bought with it was not at all reliable so first order of business was to get a new one. It was the middle of January, however the weather had been beautiful and the forecast was good until the following week so now was the time to move our boat.
Around ten o’clock, Sunday morning we took the old motor to a place near us that specializes in rebuilt motors. We found one and traded ours in. We had the boat, we had the motor, but we had no gas can. We asked the man from whom we bought the motor if we could borrow one and return it. He loaned us one and said, quite casually, “It’s got some gas in it”. I asked him if it was enough to get us from the dam to Honey Creek and he assured us it was. We happily headed off to pick up our new boat.
I knew absolutely nothing about sailing, but my husband assured me he did. Since we first started dating six years ago, I have heard his “sailing” stories. He’s never owned one, but apparently was quite at home in the Chesapeake, sailing with his buddies. The only experience I have ever had was sailing in the Virgin Islands with my ex-husband and a friend of ours who was an accomplished sailor. In fact, I vaguely remember our friend, after our futile attempts to help, saying something like, “You guys just go down below till we’re under sail”.
It’s a beautiful Sunday morning near the end of January. I made sure to take my heavy coat and gloves, just in case the Oklahoma weathermen were wrong (no comment). Gary had brought his cell phone and I made sure we had two life jackets aboard. I mean, I have been coming to this lake for 45 years, I DO know a little bit about preparation!!
Our plan was to motor from Rapier Hollow to Honey Creek. Gary was hesitant to put the sails up because he wasn’t sure how the boat was rigged, and apparently that makes a difference. I just sorta sat there with my thumb in my ear. Also, the previous owner had said the last time he put the sails up he was in a hurry, so Gary was taking that into consideration.
The motor was attached and we started out. As we approached the mouth of Rapier Hollow, Gary, being new to the lake, asked me which way we should turn. Well, I wasn’t sure. Was that the main lake? Or another large cove? Hmmm….well, I’ll just look at the map, that is, if we had one. So much for being prepared. He was sure it wasn’t the main lake but I, using my incredible powers of deduction, could not recall any other large creeks or coves, other than Duck Creek, in the south part of the lake. I insisted we turn right. We did, and voila! Behind us we soon saw Pensacola Dam. Yes!! We were on our way.
We were putt, putting along at about 10mph, the sun was shining brightly, the wind was at our back, and we were actually talking about getting back in time to return the gas can and pick up our car which we had left at the boat’s old home. Life was good, I was going to like this thing they called sailing.
About an hour and a half into our three hour “tour”, I noticed that Gary was very, very quiet. Knowing this man quite well, I asked him what was bothering him. He looked at me, and said,
“I think we’re going to run out of gas. “
“Yeah, right”, I said. “We can’t run out of gas. The nice man who sold us the motor said we have enough gas! What rubbish! Don’t be such a pessimist! Think positively!”
But I also began thinking about it. I suggested we actually put up the sails and sail. The wind was strong. Very strong. Gary reluctantly agreed. (He reluctantly agrees to lots of things I suggest) He was at the tiller so instructed me to unsnap the sail cover. Maneuvering around the sailboat was new to me, and I had visions of falling off, but I did it. I was quite proud of myself. I actually learned my first thing about sailing…unsnapping the sail cover. Wow, this is cool, I thought. We’re going to sail!!
I then took over the tiller and Gary told me to turn the boat around so it was heading into the wind. Wind might be a mild word to use here. Maybe gale storm force? Yeah, that sounds better. I was trying to see the little arrow dealie on top of the mast. (I will be using lots of terms referring to “dealie”. Just know that a “dealie” is anything that I don’t know the proper name of on a sailboat).
But the sun was right in my eyes and if it wasn’t the sun, then the sail was blocking the view. Just as I’d get that little arrow pointing straight in front of us, the boat would lurch to the side. Well, the sail was half out and something was caught somewhere. Gary was struggling, trying to get that something uncaught and meanwhile, I just remember watching him trying to jump up after some other little dealie hanging from the top of the mast that had gotten away from him. Hmmm…maybe sailing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
He decided this was not the best plan, so he rewrapped the sail and we continued on. Thinking, thinking, thinking, now REALLY thinking about running out of gas. At least he was thinking it. I put my incredible powers of denial to work. We couldn’t, wouldn’t run out of gas. The nice man had said we wouldn’t.
Putt, putt, putt, pu, pu, pu, ppppppp…….silence, agonizing silence. Hmmm…interesting.
So now, we are still not even to the point where you can see the Shangri La water tower and we are between two very, very shallow shores. (Can you imagine my lake directions to someone who asks where we are?) Gary threw out the anchor which didn’t even hit the bottom of the lake and meanwhile this gale force wind is still shrieking away. Did I say gale force wind? Let’s say tornadic. Yeah, tornadic winds. I was mad now. (I had just been leading up to it before) How could this happen??? Didn’t Gary know to check the gas??? Why would that crummy man that sold us the motor tell us there was enough gas??? What’s a body to do???
I can tell you this. There is not nearly as much boat traffic on the north end of the lake as the south end. Earlier in the day probably 5 or 6 boats passed us. Now, not a boat in sight.
As much as I dreaded making THE phone call, I did. Even though Gary was new to the lake, I was not. We had been coming to Teramiranda (actually, I still ‘slip’ and call it Airport Resort) for years. I knew everyone who worked there well. This was just about the MOST embarrassing phone call I have ever made. Well, there was that other one when I…… oh, never mind. Anyway, I called Teramiranda and told Tom, the owner, our predicament. He laughed and said,
“Well, kid, (he always calls me “kid”, I love it!) … if you’re in a sailboat, you don’t need a motor!” But what he didn’t understand is that we were in a sailboat but didn’t know the first damn thing about sailing it!! He said he would get someone to bring us some gas. He also asked if we needed oil and I said yes. (I think it is interesting to note here, that Gary had me make this phone call)
So now the wait began in earnest. Tom had told us that it would be about 30 minutes before he got someone out to us. The wind was slowly blowing us to the shore, thanks to a dragging anchor. But this wasn’t our biggest worry. Our biggest, most immediate worry was keeping me from taking Gary by the throat and slowly strangling him. I mean, here we were on a SAILBOAT for Heavens sakes and we were waiting for gas. I’m not a rocket scientist, but something struck me as very strange about that.
Finally, two local guys (don’t ask why I know they were local, I just do, okay?) happen by in one of those Speedy-Gonzales fishing boats. We tell them our tale of woe and they offer to get us some gas. They tell us there is a self-serve station about 600 feet from where we are, hidden in a cove. But no oil and no way to get any. So off they zoom. At least we know that if we’re never heard from again these guys will attest to our last known position.
Not long after they left, I looked up to see a beautiful 40 ft sailboat glide elegantly past us at about 40mph. (I have since been told that sailboats typically do NOT go 40mph). As it came alarmingly close to us, the captain asked if everything was okay. Gary held up the gas can. The captain gestured that he understood and the next thing I know, he is lowering his sails, turning around his beautiful boat and motoring over to us. Horrified, humiliated. I hid in the cabin. Gary was on his own on this one. This poor man, who is enjoying a day of honest-to-goodness sailing, is having to bring down his sails and help out these pathetic, wannabe sailors. As he approached us, smiling, I saw the boat from Teramiranda approaching. We told the honest-to-goodness sailor man that help was already on the way, but thank you very, very much for spoiling your sail and for taking down your sails to come to our rescue.
So the double-time Sunday mechanic, as I lovingly refer to him, arrives and somehow transfers the 5 gallon gas tank to our boat in incredibly rough water and I ask him if it’s mixed with oil and he said,
“OH!, hold on”, and he’s off again.
Meanwhile, Tom calls to see if the guy has arrived and I said,
“Yes, he came, but he didn’t have any oil”.
“Well, he left with a pint of oil”, Tom relied, and I’m wondering if it was a pint of something else.
This double time Sunday guy apparently goes over to Beacon Hill, a residential area, to the caretaker and gets some oil from him. Back at the ranch, the sun is going down and we don’t have a battery for lights. (I mean, really, in the words of Gilligan, it was only going to be THREE hours!) I am sooooo mad at MR. SAILOR Gary.
Gary was up front willing the anchor to grab hold. The boat was rocking in the swells and I think I said to him, yeah, I did say to him,
“If you fall off this boat, I’m NOT coming in after you and you’ll freeze to death before you make it to shore!!, so you’d better not fall off” (could I possibly have been hoping that he would??? nahhhhh)
The double-time Sunday guy finally returns but can’t get up close to our boat. He is going to throw the oil onto the boat. Yes, that’s what I said. This precious oil, this elixir of out-board motors, if not of life is going to be thrown 20 feet. Since Gary was standing on the front of the boat, willing himself not to fall in and thus fulfill my prophecy, the double time Sunday guy throws the bottle of oil to ME!! I swear the gods were finally with me cause I caught it. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if I hadn’t. I probably would have made Gary dive for it.
We got the gas tank filled and resumed our now, SIX hour tour. At this point, I was beyond mad. I was sitting huddled in the now cold evening air, making horrible, snide, rude, comments to Gary all the way home. I vaguely remember saying something like, “Oh, YEAH, big Mr. CHESAPEAKE sailor!!! Remind me not to believe you anymore!!!”
I did help him tie the boat but then I came directly up to the house for a stiff drink. My daughter happened to call just as I had gotten to the house and I told her my tale. Expecting some sympathy from my one and only darling daughter, she merely said, “Mom, you were so mean to him!”
Okay, once again, guilt, the gift that keeps on giving overtook the anger. I looked out the window and watched Gary carefully arranging and putting all the little dealies back in their place. My heart went out to him. Summoning my incredible powers of compassion, I returned to the dock, offering him a beer as a truce. I then proceeded to tell him how I thought those dealies should be put back in their place.