Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, That started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship.

The mate was a mighty sailin' man, the Skipper brave and sure.
Four passengers set sail that day for a three hour tour. A three hour tour.
The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed.
If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost. The Minnow would be lost.

Yeah, it was a lot like that.
It was our 3rd Anniversary and we headed up the Florida coast to go scalloping with friends. They had a camper and we had a boat. Kismet. Little did I know that first year that people plan their scalloping trips a year in advance. When checking out families reserved cabins and campsites for the following 4th of July. So when I called a month ahead to get a campsite with water and electricity the nice lady stifled a giggle. Then she did some checking around and decided they could squeeze us in with electricity but no water hookup. But we'd be close to the community bathrooms, would that be okay? Sure I said. Was that another giggle I heard? Nah.

Oh vacation, how did we screw up? Let us count the ways.

Mistake #1 driving up after work. Why? Because that had us arriving in the middle of the night, in the dark, in the boonies. Somehow without jackknifing our boat trailer we found the camp grounds and the office to check in.
Mistake #2 not asking our friends what century the camper they owned was manufactured in. Why exactly did we need electricity hookups? The camper didn't have a/c. JULY in FLORIDA, in a camper that sleeps four, (apparently four people were much smaller in the 1950s), one drooling and barking dog, who was not ours, and one tiny fan. Um yeah, you do the math there.
Mistake #3 asking where the nearest Walmart was. Answer " Up north, near Perry." That was over 1/2 an hour away. Kudos for me though, I realized I asked the wrong question. Not too proud to admit my mistake I headed back to the office and rephrased my question. "Where can we buy a fan?" Answer: "Right down yonder at the Ace Hardware." Thank you Pete!
Sleeping that night was a bit cooler. And hey we were close to the bathrooms, right?
Mistake #4 not clarifying how close we were to the public outhouse. Um yeah, thisclose. We knew the toiletry habits of every friggin camper there. We were also right behind the big family house, where we could see they had their own bathrooms and refrigerator and a/c and a tv and a porch and more than 2 beds in 100 sq. ft and no dog... um where was I?

Day two of our trip. We had masks, snorkels, scallop bags and lunch. Day one was just practice. Today we were ready. We were gonna do this right.
Can you see how friggin sunny and gorgeous it was in that first photo? Uh huh, that's what it looked like when we decided to start the great scallop hunt. Think Easter egg hunt underwater.
Mistake # 5 listening but not hearing the advice we were given by the Sea Hag. When the seasoned veterans tell you to "Follow the other boats" that means follow them, pull up next to them, buy them a drink, put on a condom, and throw out your anchor. Not follow them, give them and the 100 boats they are having an orgy with some space and keep your virginity. There is a reason all those people are rightontopofeachother. Cause that my friends is where the scallops are!
The boys put on their snorkel gear and jumped in the water. Dude, we found one, jump in. Everyone gets in the water, then we all look up and notice, it ain't so sunny anymore. Wow, look at all those dark clouds headed our way. Seems a lot of people are leaving.
Mistake #6 hesitating. Instead of following the other boats we hemmed and hawed and then it.started.to.rain. We decide to head back in, we were the little caboose. Then we see the people in the boat that was next to us, are putting on life jackets. Wimps. Us, pointing and laughing.
Mistake #7 not getting our life jackets from the hatch behind us before we got moving. That picture of my hubby, not a joke. At first it was, we thought it was HI-larious, he needed his mask to see through the rain. Um, not so funny later. I honestly can not remember if we were ever able to retrieve our life jackets.

Here's what I do remember. 15 ft boat in what felt like 10 ft waves, water over the bow of the boat. My friend covered head to toe in a towel refusing to look at what was going on. Her boyfriend bailing the Titanic with a thimble, yeah, just like that, except the thimble was a diving mask. My hubby singing the Gilligan's island theme trying to get us to laugh instead of cry. Watching the bass boat behind us sink and not being able to stop or turn around for fear of the same thing happening to us. We did blow our emergency horn as much as we could to hopefully alert bigger boats nearby to look for them. As fast as the squall came on, it was over. And we had only made it back to the channel at that point. My breakfast? In the Gulf of Mexico. The big joke? I waited until the storm was over before I got sick.

Now you would think the tale of tragedy would end here. But alas there is a bit more. Out boat? She ran out of gas. I shit you not, we are finally safely on our way back to the dock and nothing. We finally flag down someone nice enough to tow us in and they literally cut the rope and let us glide into the beach area without slowing down. I don't think I need to tell you we waited in line to pull the boat out of the water that afternoon. None of us even considered going back out even though it was before noon. We hand cranked that sucker out of the water, seeing as she was on empty.

We spent the remainder of the day watching the Coast Guard tow in boats. We drank. Never saw that bass boat. Drank some more. Listened to all the stories. Heard nothing about the bass boat. Drank a lot.

On our way out of town the next morning we stopped and bought a paper. Only one fatality reported, a woman had a heart attack after their boat capsized. We were still worried about that bass boat. I was just sick to my stomach, and not due to my hangover, thinking about it. So we stopped for another town's local newspaper. And there it was the story of a bass boat that I watched sink. The people were found after someone saw their cooler floating in the water. Thank you God!

Want to hear the kicker? Because the best stories always have a kicker. We went back (9 more years, in fact. Steep learning curve, we conquered it.) And the next year? WE HAD THE BIG HOUSE! But that's a whole 'nother post.

5 comments:

Oh my goodness. That made for a good laugh this morning. Whoever said camping was easy?

July 4, 2008 at 2:12 PM  

Experience has its rewards!

July 4, 2008 at 2:56 PM  

Oh my gosh...I'm in love with this!

July 7, 2008 at 2:11 PM  

Remind me not to go camping or boating with you ;0

Glad you made it.

-Stu

July 7, 2008 at 6:34 PM  

Oh my gosh...this is crazy.
I too have had some amazing moments living in Sunny Florida. The weather can be a B*@#h.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. And then be careful.
Crazy times...I am glad you guys made it out ok.
the learning curve is huge....take care.

July 7, 2008 at 10:57 PM  

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