KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Monday, August 27, 2007

At Last!

Yesterday, my family and I had the boat outing that almost wasn't. Ironically, our boat's name is At Last.

All we wanted to do was take our 21-year-old 21-foot inboard-outboard pleasure boat out on Long Island Sound. Saturday, Ed, my husband, and Neil, our almost-13-year-old, spent the afternoon giving the boat a checkup. The engine was a little sluggish starting up, but that doesn't always mean anything is amiss.

The next morning, we drove down to the local boat ramp, got the boat off the trailer and into the water, boarded the boat, and got ready to head out. Ed turned the key: Click. Click. Click. The engine didn't even turn over. We even have a backup battery, but apparently both batteries had died. So Ed hopped out of the boat, trotted up the floating dock and down the street, and came back carrying a new battery. Forty-nine wire hookups—or so it seemed—later, the engine at last turned over and we were on our way.

We didn't get far, not even to the inlet. A small U.S. Coast Guard interceptor gunboat, complete with sheathed machine gun on its bow, pulled us over in the harbor. Its occupants were checking every outgoing pleasure boat for boating violations.

Two Coast Guard officers, a good deal younger than Ed and me and all muscled and officious, boarded our boat and looked us and it over. We have good life jackets for the whole family, 2 boys and 2 adults, but the boys are age 12 and younger and weren't wearing theirs because the jackets were stowed in the boat cabin—2 violations. (I guess the idea behind that rule is that adults are old enough to be stupid and not wear life jackets, but children must be protected because they don't know any better.) Our type IV flotation devices were also in the cabin, not out next to the seats—1 violation. And the pièce de résistance: They asked us to show them our emergency flares. Ed dug them out. One of the boys—I mean officers—looked at them and said, with a straight face, "The expiration date on these was eighteen years ago." (They must have been the ones that came with the boat when it was new and owned by someone else!) Another violation.

One citation later, which we wonder whether it will show up on Ed's driver's license, which he was required to show, we were considered to have been let off lightly: The boy officer decided to list only the flares as in violation. Back to the boat ramp we went. Again, Ed hopped off the boat, trotted up the dock, and returned, this time with new flares. He'd gotten both the battery and the flares at the same store, and both items were the last of their type that the store had in stock.

The third time was truly our charm; we made it out of the harbor without incidence.

We decided to go out a good ways and trawl. Nobody caught any fish, but we had a good time ... until the flies that had apparently stowed away on our boat on land decided to come out for a look around. There must've been 30 of the little buggers!

By that point, I'd decided to go into the cabin for a nap, and Jared, our youngest, went in and out of the cabin a few times. Ed was letting Neil pilot the boat when we started going again in an effort to outrun the flies. My dozing off to the soothing sound of the running boat motor was punctuated by very brief startles to the thwap, thwap, thwap of Ed's sandals. He'd taken them off and was using one of them as a flyswatter.

"There! I think we got most of 'em," Ed said. There was a pause as he walked to the stern and looked over the end of the boat and down onto the swim platform. The smart little pests had all zoomed out of the way, landed on the platform, and were hanging on for their little lives as we sped along.

We kept going until we reached Bridgeport, Connecticut. The flies' legs must've given out somewhere along the way, because they were gone by then.

Finally happy with our boating day, we began heading back to Long Island; it was getting late.

As twilight began, Ed switched on our night-traveling lights, fore, aft, and midship. We rode along for a while, and then the midship and aft lights decided to burn out. We kept watch for Coast Guard boats; we just knew it would be our luck to get pulled over for yet another violation.

But we arrived back at the ramp safely and pulled our boat onto its trailer ... only to find that the trailer lights, which worked great when they were partially submerged in the water during boat loading, now had decided not to work on land.

We did manage to get home without being ticketed by the local police for having no trailer taillights or signal lights. At last!

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