I’ve been trying to figure out how best to portray this story, and I’m still not sure I’m happy with it. However, I’ve decided I’ve got to write it out before life continues and I forget details of this epic day.
To set the story, the friends of Sam’s grandparents that live on St. George Island wanted to take us all over to Dog Island, and asked Mr. Evans to perform a burial at sea without much advance notice.
The day dawned beautifully. A little early for my vacationing preference, thanks to a cute, little missy who wanted to talk. But the sunrise was stunning. I posted a couple pictures of it in the last post. I was quite happy to be breathing in that fresh beach air, and excited to be going out on a boat! I had rather hoped we would get the opportunity to do that, and was thrilled when it worked out!
We spent the morning mostly as usual: Coffee, walk on the beach… Relaxing, and pretty much perfect. We gathered the gear we wanted to take, and headed out to the mainland to get to our boats. Finding the place was in and of itself something of an adventure, and, despite being only 15-20 minutes away, required its own bathroom stop. We eventually got there.
Now picture it. First of all, this is a relatively tourist-free part of Florida on the Gulf side. Because of that, everyone who lives there owns their boats, and no one really rents them. So, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, though I can’t really say what I was expecting. We pulled off a 2-lane in the opposite direction of the water into a more or less dirt alley that ran next to what I thought was a dusty/sandy, abandoned gas station in a worn shade of that pinkish color Florida seems to like so much. In front, there were a couple of pontoon boats on their trailers in various stages of disrepair. It seemed pretty clear that neither were in working order, and probably hadn’t been in a while. Aside from our group’s vehicles, there was a car with Colorado plates and maybe another mostly out of my immediate field of observation. Across the street there was a large building and some sort of marina.
Several of our party went inside (the bathroom calls again!), and spoke with a very thickly-accented (Louisiana, maybe?), very tan, and well-fed man who seemed to be in charge. They heard him say something to the effect of “Only one of the boats will make it there and back,” called him on it, and he, of course, flatly denied saying that without offering a different explanation of what he HAD said. Needless to say, we were slightly on our guard.
To our relief (not the boats out front at least!), the man hopped in the Colorado car, took us down the street and over to the water. There were two pontoon boats waiting for us. Man-in-Charge and another guy, hereafter Sidekick, gave a couple of our group the run down on how to drive the boats. We split everyone between the boats, and we were off!
… Or so we thought.
The boat I was on, pulled away just fine, and was about to head out of the bay, when we noticed the other boat with the rest of our party was already shipwrecked. And again. And again. (Right about here, we found out later, Jacob more or less threw Victoria’s phone in the ocean. ;)) Ah, there. Now they’re on their way! Let’s go!
Everything seemed great. I was on the boat that was supposedly the better of the two. It wasn’t impressive, but I was ready to forgive the ripped cushions that fell into the compartments when you sat down in order to better have an excellent ride. Once we made it out of the no wake zone we could go fast, and get to the island!
Our supposedly better, faster boat immediately started to bog, so we were constrained to a speed barely over no wake speed. The other boat, with the rest of our group, quickly passed us, nearly sideswiping us in the process.
Nevertheless, we were going to have a good time! So bring out the food!
That was funny. Ryan had a kid-sized life jacket on, but when he was sitting he almost couldn’t move. He kept trying to get his hand to his mouth, but would end up kind of tossing the pieces of fruit in because he couldn’t quite get there.
Despite it taking a good bit longer than we expected, our boat did eventually make it to the island, and we hiked over the squeaky sand to the other side (The power lines in the picture below show approximately the midpoint, so hiking is probably overstating a bit.), and set up for the afternoon. It was lovely.
At this point, a few of our party went back out on one of the boats for the burial at sea. The rest of us walked up and down the island and enjoyed to view. Then, suddenly, there was a low fly-over by a couple of military jets! That was cool, but unfortunately we didn’t get any pictures.
After a little while, Sam noticed that it was taking them somewhat longer than expected to return. He walked over to the other side to check on things. I was laying on a blanket with Gloriana, enjoying the sun, drifting in and out of sleep, thinking Sam had Ryan. I was awakened by Ryan arguing rather loudly, and suddenly noticed he wasn’t with Sam. I didn’t know where Sam was. Eventually he and the rest of the party came back.
Turns out they had turned their boat off in order to do the service, and it wouldn’t start again when they were ready to return! So there they were, stranded out there, and all of us on the other side of the island with all of our phones left on the boats. Thankfully Sam noticed the time, and went investigating. He took the working boat out, and towed them back to the island.
We stayed there for a little while longer, but eventually it was time to head back.
And the story only gets better…
Because there was now only one working boat (Oh, look! Guy-in-Charge was right!), we had to decide what to do. We were in communication with the owners, and they said someone would be along shortly to retrieve the stranded boat, and bring back some of our party. Meanwhile, there were several of us who were cold, tired, hungry, and in need of a bathroom, so we hopped in the working boat, and marooned the rest of the group on the island.
Well, about half way back to the dock, we passed Sidekick in a fancier pontoon boat headed out to fetch the rest of our group. A little further along and our working boat died. Yep. Dead. So there we were, in the middle of this bay, on a rather sketchy pontoon boat, with the tide coming in. Bigger and bigger swells. It really wasn’t an ideal situation since we had Sam’s grandparents and a 5 month old. I wasn’t really too worried about anyone else, but I just wasn’t sure what to do about a baby should a swell come along that was actually strong enough to throw us out or tip us over.
We knew Sidekick would be along eventually, so we just rode it out as best we could. And then the presumed-dead boat with the rest of our group in it passed us! Thankfully quickly followed by Sidekick in the fancy boat. He and Sam swapped boats, and Sidekick tried to figure out what was wrong with our boat, eventually handing the wheel over to Jacob while he climbed around the engine. At one point he was heard to say something like, “That’s why it ain’t runnin’ right! You got a gas leak!” followed shortly by “Oh, and that plug’s on fire. Don’t worry. Just keep goin’; it’ll burn itself out.” Gas leak, fire. Fire, gas leak. I was not liking this picture. However, Jacob is thrilled to now be able to claim driving a flaming boat. His version of the story sounds something like THIS.
After a little while even Sidekick gave up, and decided towing was the only way our boat was getting back. But it was a pretty ride back in!
As we were almost to the dock, we noticed a Florida Coast Patrol (or something like that) truck up on a hill overlooking the bay.
Sure enough, he pulled up right as we docked. I, for one, was cold and tired from the somewhat stressful end of the trip, so I went and sat in the heated van while the remaining shenanigans occurred.
Sidekick was asked to locate certain safety equipment and registration papers, and questioned about a missing registration number that was supposed to be on the side of the fancy boat. Some of our party were asked to identify where and how to use certain required safety measures. Once they were unable to do that, we were all allowed to leave. And back to our comfy Sea Rose for some much needed relaxation!
It was quite a day. Thankfully everything ended just fine, and it really was a nice afternoon despite it all. However, I think next time, when it comes to renting boats, we’ll stick to the kayaks. 🙂