Thursday, July 10, 2014

Three morons in a tiny boat

Years ago, around the time Bill Clinton was having his presidential knob polished by a chubby intern, the company my dad worked for got a special deal from the Jacksonville Suns.  For a flat fee, you got box seats and all the hotdogs and beer you wanted at an afternoon game.  Several of us took advantage of the offer and saw the beer/hotdog thing as a personal challenge.  We tried valiantly to eat every hotdog and drink every beer in the stadium that day, but it was a game of numbers.  They were too many and we were too few.

Todd, Paul and I were unceremoniously dumped out of a car onto my front yard around 8 pm.

So what are we going to do now?

I know, let's go fishing!

One problem popped up immediately.  We were out of beer and none of us is in any condition to drive.  No problem, I got this covered.  I walked next door and got the 15 year old neighbor kid who had his learners permit to drive us up to Publix in my truck for more beer.

Upon returning home with beer, ice and bait, we proceeded to load up my little jon boat, trolling motor, battery and gear into the back of the truck.  We get the neighbor kid to drive us down to the creek.  He walked home (it's only a few minutes away on foot) and left us there to put the boat in.

We quickly found out that a 10 foot jon boat is not nearly large enough for 3 grown men who had been drinking all afternoon.  We were floating just a few inches above the water line with all the weight in the boat.  Fishing is out of the question.  Instead of going home, we decide to take a scenic nighttime tour of Julington Creek.  When I say scenic, all we could see was darkness except for our flashlights and lantern, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

We're watching you Todd.  
Did I mention that Todd is from Kentucky and not completely down with the idea of gators?  Well, this is great fun for me as I start shining the light around so he can see all their beady little eyes glowing back at us.  Always there, always watching.

So we keep puttering along under power from the trolling motor.  For the uninitiated, an electric trolling motor is a small motor that sounds like George Jetson's car used to maneuver a boat around slowly.   Power is measured in lbs of thrust.  This particular model was an ancient 14 lb thrust model that only 2 of the 3 speeds worked.  For comparison, 14lbs of thrust equates to about 0.000001 horsepower.  You can walk faster than this thing.  A lot faster.  I think the smallest they make now is about 30 lbs of thrust.  Don't laugh, it was free.

One of the rocket scientists in the boat says "Hey, lets go up to Clarks!"  Clarks is a fish camp/seafood joint about 3 miles up the creek from where we put in.  It's the point where the creek goes from being really narrow to full river.

Sure, why not.  It's super dark, we're drinking and in a tiny boat.  What's the worst that could happen?

A few hours, several beers and hundreds of gators later, we're standing on the dock at Clarks, proud to join the ranks of explorers like Magellan, Lewis and Clark and James T. Kirk.

From the looks of it, we missed last call.  Dammit.  I bet Magellan didn't miss last call when he made it to the Philippines.

Oh well, it's after 2 am.  Time to go home.  We climb back aboard the boat and start the long and treacherous journey home.  About 300 yards from the dock, the unthinkable happens.  The battery dies.  No more juice.

"Uh, well shit.  This sucks."

"Now what?"

"I guess we're paddling."

I wouldn't really call it a paddle, more like an extra large spatula.  Oh yeah, there's only one of them.  Three miles doesn't sound like much until you try to propel an overloaded boat full of drunks with a kitchen utensil.

The rest of the trip we took turns paddling and drinking.

Suddenly, the peace and tranquility is broken by a scream so horrifying that it immediately flips that switch in the primitive part of our brains from inactive to fight or flight.  Every hair on my body stood on end.  It took a second to realize that it was Todd screaming.  He sounded a lot like Chris Tucker in the Fifth Element.  Todd thought something was about to eat him.  What really happened was that a mullet got spooked by the boat and when it jumped in the pitch dark, it jumped towards the boat and hit Todd in the leg and then started flopping around by his feet.  I'm pretty sure Todd not only dropped a few stink nuggets in his drawers, he also lost at least 3 or 4 years off the end of his life.
Jumping out of the water and into your nightmares

We got back to the put in spot right about sunrise.  All in all it was a good night.  We saw wildlife, we drank beer, we laughed,  one of us cried, we even caught a fish without trying.


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