The Pontoon Boat Rescue

There are times in life when a stranger asks for help. Mostly, I feel good when I extend it. At the conclusion of this particular response to an appeal, I wasn’t so sure. It began as we prepared to launch our kayaks off the ramp on Marina Drive, Salmon Arm, BC. A man approached and asked, “Are you going out?” Now the answer was quite apparent, as we had our kayaks already to push in. Obviously he wanted something. “My pontoon boat floated away in the winds last night,” he informed us. “Would you go and rescue it for me and bring it in to this launch? It’s just around the corner.” He pointed to the left.

While we were checking our equipment, zipping up our PFDs, his wife stuck her head out of the vehicle he’d backed onto the ramp. She had a little white dog in her lap. “We just rescued him,” she told us. “He was running down the busy road. We don’t know who he belongs to. We have a call into the animal shelter.”

Now this incited in me an urge to pass on the kindness they were doing, by responding in full measure to their plea. We took to the water with enthusiasm for the task, rounded the shallow spit that ran out past the jetty and turned into a bay, where reeds and willows formed a protected nesting ground for Grebes. Signs were posted to leave them undisturbed. In the middle of a shallow bay a huge pontoon boat rested up against the reeds. We paddled over and assessed the situation. When we tried to move the boat with the bows of our kayaks, it wouldn’t budge. I circled behind and discovered the motor was down and sunk heavily into the mud bottom. The boat was comprised of a large cabin on top of a pontoon deck with yet another story from which one could drive the boat or fish.

It is not in our nature to give up. So, even as we measured the enormity of the job, we looked for solutions. The man stood on a walking path separated by swampy water and responded to our calls. When I told him the propeller was driven into the mud preventing us from moving the boat, he told me there was a button on the right side that would raise it. Again I maneuvered in close, banging my new Perception on the metal edges sticking up under the hull. When I pressed the button nothing happened. I was later to find the battery had gone dead the night before. He had removed it, tied his boat to a float in the lake and gotten a ride to shore with another boater. Meanwhile, the rope anchoring the float had broken freeing the pontoon boat to ride the wind induced waves till it became mired. Ludicrous indeed that he would suggest there was power to raise the long arm of the engine. I dug the propeller out with my paddle, tied a rope on low at the bow and started rotating the boat around in a half circle pointing out of the bay. My sister pushed the nose of her kayak into an angle on the stern and paddled hard. We loosened it from the mud and inched forward. Because of the shallow water on the spit, we had to go out and make a wide circle in toward the launch. We were pulling enormous weight and the strain on shoulders and arms was painful. Did we say, “This is ridiculous, let him find someone with a power boat?” Not for a minute. We dragged the huge boat toward the launch, where he stood with his wife, neither of them making the least effort to help. They didn’t so much as take off their shoes and socks and step into the water.

As I closed on the ramp, my concern grew. I was dead centre of the boat, and while I landed, exited my kayak and dragged it clear, momentum would carry the pontoon boat onto me. I called to my sister to come around front, and prepare to catch the boat. She was not happy about leaving me to pull it alone, but was in the water and ready to receive by the time I hit the ramp. Meanwhile, it became apparent the man wanted the boat up against a small wooden dock to the side – too little information, too late. My sister steered it over to him.

“Thanks,” he said, as exhausted we panted over our floating kayaks. “Just pass it up,” I responded, a little short tempered with pain.

We prepared to launch and go for the quiet paddle first planned, and the woman called out that they’d found the dog’s owner, and elderly lady delighted to get him back. “I was happy that two good deeds had been done that morning, and paddled away feeling better.

“Well don’t hit her!” I heard my sister yell and turning around found the pontoon boat, battery installed,  motor running heading right for me, as the man, oblivious to my position untangled his fishing line. My sister’s call saved me a nasty accident. His engine died. “Oh, I didn’t see her.” He called to my sister, without an apology for almost running me over. He saw me well enough when he wanted help, I concluded. There has to be some irony here, somewhere. Can you find it? I’m still too flabbergasted to try.


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