Old Sea Squirrel Tale


I love water and being on water and that usually means being on a boat.  I have been on dugout canoes, sampans, rubber dinghy’s, kayaks, canoes, narrow canal boats, fishing boats and ferries.  I have even been on a tornado class catamaran.  But even though our cousins, the black rat (Rattus rattus), were famed seafarers, stowing away on ocean going vessels and spreading the Black Plague during the Middle Ages, squirrels tend to be landlubbers – well, tree-huggers actually.   This naturally means that it is generally not a good idea to leave me in charge of a vessel or responsible for any important maneuver cause my brain is just not wired for anything nautical.

 

The Exhilarating and Dangerous Thrill of a Tornado Class Catamaran (photo from http://www.tornado.org/)

 

Take my friend, Mike previously of Ottawa, Canada (and more recently of Silicon Valley, California).  He was the proud owner of a Tornado class  catamaran.  So proud of it was he that he invited me to go out with him for a day on the Ottawa River.    We spent several hours out on the water with the wind in our hair and the spray in our faces.  Basically, Mike handled everything; pulling this rope, raising this sail, etc.  And I was mostly ballast.  As you can see from the photo above,  the crew have to lean out over the side of the craft so as to balance the boat and not allow it to tip over when making a turn or when a strong wind has caught the sails.  So as ballast, it was my job to follow Captain Mike’s instruction to hang out over on the starboard or port (yes, I do know a few salty sea words).

I think I must have been one of the best and most obedient ballast that he ever had cause suddenly, he offered to let me take over the steering for a spell.  I protested my inadequacies for the task but Mike insisted that I was ready.  So with some trepidation, I took over the reins of the boat.  Now I don’t know how I did it but it was not more than 30 seconds later that one of the hulls of the catamaran lifted clear out of the water and we were in danger of tipping over and capsizing while traveling at warp factor 10.  Only by Mike’s quick action of relieving me from the steering and sending me leaning out on one side prevented us from being a contender on TV’s Top 20 Most Spectacular Wipe-outs.  A clearly shakened, Captain Mike, went a whiter shade of pale and developed a stutter.  Nevertheless, I understood from the sign language and rude gesticulations that he would not ask me to steer his beloved Tornado again even if Hell freezes over.

And yet, that is not my most embarrassing moment on the water.  For that, I will have to bring you back further in time; when I was in my early twenties and going on a canal boat holiday with three friends.  For more about that adventure, read this previous post.

 

Happy Times on the Water (Photo: LGS)

 

It was a fun holiday and a great experience.  But the moment in question came right at the end when after a week of boating on the canals, we had to return the canal boat to its spot moored to a dock in the village of Heyford.  Now my friend, Julie, was trying to guide the boat in close to the dock using the steering and the engine.  However, there seemed to be a bit of a mud bank near the dock and the boat would somehow deflect outwards when Julie tried to drive it in and in the end, there was still a gap of about 5 feet between the boat and the dock.  We both agreed that this was not acceptable.  Julie then suggested that I grab a rope from the middle of the boat and as she tried to drive the boat in once again, I was to try to pull the boat alongside the dock with the rope.

So, I got hold of one end of the rope and jumped off the boat onto the dock.  With rope in hand, I signaled to Julie that I was ready. She revved the engine and made her approached.  At what I deemed was the right moment, I proceeded to pull on the rope.  Expecting that it would require quite some effort to fight the mudbank, I decided to lean backwards and use my whole body weight to pull the boat in.  The last thing I remember was falling back and off the other  side of the dock, was my eyes looking up into the clear blue sky and seeing the other end of the rope flying freely in the air.  I remember the whole episode in slow motion.  I watched with the calm serenity of those who know they cannot avoid their fate and just watched the other end of the rope continue its beautiful arc across the sky.  And then there was the inevitable splash and I was covered up to my chest in foul smelling mud.

Lesson:  Always remember to check that the other end of the rope is actually tied to the boat!

A Younger LGS Discovers Therapeutic Mud Baths Long Before They Were Fashionable (Photocredit: Unsympathetic friend of LGS)
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20 thoughts on “Old Sea Squirrel Tale”

  1. You’re just getting warmed-up Squirrel. Spend a little more time around boats and many more tales are sure to emerge. You haven’t yet lost an anchor, smashed a dock or sat out a 12-tide on a sandbar. Plenty of adventures ahead.

  2. I suggest that you saw off a limb, leg, or hand replace it with a wooden leg or hook and simply captain the boat. That way all you have to do is shout at the sailors and first mate who will ignore you anyway and get you safely from point A to B.

  3. Mobius,
    Thank you. The photos are a little faded with age though.

    Mr. Charleston,
    True, true. I am sure more misadventures await. I haven’t lost an anchor but I have crashed a lock gate, have gone over board, and once almost left a boat hanging when I moored it tightly to some ballards and then the tide went out!

  4. Mark,
    Sadly, if I were left in charge of a boat…….I suspect the crew would all eventually end up with peg legs and eye patches and the boat at the bottom of the ocean.

    G,
    Oh, once you get past the smell and the fact that everybody is avoiding contact with you, the mud bath is certainly relaxing.

  5. Always in style, dear LGS. I always wanted to make such a trip on a houseboat, be it in France or Ireland. For any naval trip else I prefer either something real big (like QE2), or a freight ship.

  6. Mago,
    I loved being on the canal boat. I think a houseboat would also be great fun. Word of advice though, choose your boat mates carefully. Tempers flare more quickly in cramped living spaces.

    I think Joyce is okay cause I also follow a blog by her daughter and no news there is probably good news but after reading your post, I sent off a message to find out more. I’ll keep you informed.

    But, there is absolutely no news of Kat. Even her close friend on Bug Safari has had no response from Kat.

  7. Molly,
    Sadly I have been so slender for many years and I have to resort to photos like that to convince my friends that I was indeed slender once. Fortunately, I have not been so muddy since either!

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