September 20, 2022 Adrift Again

Published by Victor Barr on

Bright sunshine bounced off the white caps that chopped the water of Okanagan Lake. I had my new battery and I was early for my morning boat ride. The girls from The Blind Angler were going for lunch at The Landing, a lakefront restaurant at The Cove Lakeside Resort.

The boat fired right up and everything seemed good as we set out on the breezy waters of the Okanagan.

The last time on the boat I’d suffered a dead battery so I wanted to make sure everything was working well for my afternoon tour. It was the last day of summer and the last boat tours of the year. 

We cruised into the breeze and the girls were enjoying the ride. I heard the motor buzz at me for a second so increased the speed and the buzzing stopped. Just a little weak battery I thought. Still once bitten twice shy, I figured I would call the mechanic and get his opinion. 

A low battery should be fine just let it charge up and everything should be ok he told me.

Everything should be ok… on a boat I need to learn to doubt the word “should” and never take any chances.

When the boat buzzed at me again after leaving the Cove I should have known right then not to risk it and go home to get my other boat for the next tour of the day.

But hindsight is like that, shoulda, coulda, woulda – didn’t

I dropped the girls back at the marina and called the mechanic again. Did he think it would be ok? Could he meet me in Westbank to put his diagnostic tool on it? He assured me it was probably just a weak battery – probably is another word that a boat captain should never trust.

I messaged captain Brad and asked him to be on standby in case I needed him to cover the afternoon tour. 

I set out from the dock, hopeful. But a knot had formed in my stomach and nerves frayed at the edge of my brain. 

Then the boat started to sputter.

I called the mechanic again. “I don’t think I can make it to Westbank yacht club, I’m turning back,” I told him.

Then the boat motor died.

I turned the key. Nothing.

I called Captain Brad and begged him to go get the guests for the next tour and take them to Frind Winery for their wine tasting. The best he could do was bring Serendipity to the water.

He wouldn’t leave me stranded but he wasn’t able to do the tour.

I looked back toward Peachland as I drifted with the wind. There was another boat on the water and it wasn’t too far away. I wondered if they would see me. Would they come help?

I grabbed the red life jacket and started waving it. I kept waving it back and forth. Come on see me, please…

They were coming my way! Relief flooded through me, help was on the way. The mechanic was also on the way to the boat launch with a new battery. Somehow I didn’t think it was just a battery.

The nice couple in their big boat pulled up and said they saw me waving the lifejacket and knew something was wrong. Twice in three days I was being towed back to the dock. Definitely time for the boat to go into the mechanics. More money to spend that I don’t have.

Another first-world problem.

The good samaritans pulled me to the launch and refused any offer of compensation. The law of the marine world they said. My faith in people was at an all-time high. 

The mechanic showed up a short time later and I ran to my motorbike and headed to the Westbank boat launch. Captain Brad had Serendipity in the water and I could still make the afternoon tour, fifteen minutes late but at least I could get it in.

I jumped on the boat and checked the fuel – 6  percent!? What the? Man, how come he brought me an empty boat? How could I make it across the lake? Brad assured me there should be enough fuel to get to the Eldorado but why didn’t he fill it up before he brought it to the water, what good is a boat without gas?

I shouldn’t complain at least he did something…

 The gauge went up to 20 percent so I started to breathe easier. I pulled away from the dock and set out across Okanagan Lake.

That’s when the boat began to scream an alarm at me. “Low Voltage.” Not again, I thought to myself. There was nothing to do but keep going. I thought my heart might stop. Out of gas and low voltage, what next?

Relief washed through my body as I eased up to the gas dock at the Eldorado. I looked at the gas gauge – 0 percent it read. The low voltage alarm was still on even though I’d silenced it. 

I put in the gas and called my guests to come meet me at the gas dock. I was only fifteen minutes late but they weren’t ready anyway. We would be on time for their wine tasting – if my boat made it.

I did my best to hide my anxiety and said a silent prayer as I turned the key. The boat fired right up and the low voltage indicator was off. I smiled at my guests and the glassy water of Okanagan Lake. 

I would make it after all.

But anyone who thinks the job of a boat captain is one of leisure and fun never experienced a day like that one. I breathed deeply and let the stress roll off of me. 

I finished the tour and wished my guests a great evening. I soaked in the last day of summer and enjoyed my ride across the silent waters home bound. Brad was meeting me with the trailer. I still had to go back to Peachland and pull the pontoon boat from the dock. It was the alternator that was fried so I would have to rope it onto the trailer. 

Another first-world problem.

I ended my day and looked back at the lessons I learned:

People are good.

If your boat beeps at you get it checked out before going further. 

And enjoy every moment.

On my way home I saw an ambulance cross my path with the lights flashing. I knew my day was a lot better than the one they were having.

Categories: Daily Journal

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