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The Aristocraft – Part 2

Another sunny, beautiful day. Nothing could go wrong. The plan was to take our boat out to the farthest island- Devil’s Island -to visit the old lighthouse. Devil”a Island was some 7 miles out in Lake Superior. There were other islands that spotted our peripheral on the way out so it wasn’t as though we were taking a crappy little 1960s boat out in the middle of the Lake. There was a faint breeze and we clipped along at speeds up to maybe 15 miles per hour.

We arrived at Devil’s Island after one change of a gas tank mid-way. We had a lunch then walked to the light house to check it out. In front of the lighthouse was a rock cliff that was worn down by years of being bullied by water and wind. The island got its name because of the scary howling noise made by the wind ripping into the hole-deformed cliff, creating a devil howling wind tunnel.

When we left the island we drove our boat around and got a close look at the cliff and it looked dangerous. Then we headed back towards our camping island in our stick of dynamite boat. Once again I needed to switch gas tanks. We had both of our Marine radios with us. One wasn’t working properly so we kept both on hand. Before starting the engine I tested the faulty radio. It was not completely dead. At least we had back up. We started the engine and moved on.

As we were about half way back to our island the engine started to sputter. It was hard to believe that we burned through the whole tank that quickly. The engine cut out and we glided to a stop in the dead middle between islands. It was that relaxing peace like in the eye of a storm. It would not last.

I went to the back of the boat and checked the gas tank. It was close to empty. I switched it out with one from my gas tank fleet. Squeezed the black bulb to prime the engine and pulled the rope to start. I may have forgotten to mention that this was no electric start deal and you may have assumed by my earlier use of the word “tattered”. I pulled and pulled and no response. Here we go.

I felt more comfortable than I should have in this situation. As a child, my dad had a similar minded boat and this process – the starting the boat process- usually comprised approximately 50% of all our boating outings. Us Spaffords come from a long line of people unflappable by engines not starting. I can only image that my ancestors, before the advent of the engine, were very comfortable with horses keeling over dead or wagon wheels falling off.

I had minimal tools, but with those tools pulled the plug and wiped it down assuming possible flooding. I also pulled the carburetor off and inspected. There. All mechanical maintenance possibilities were exhausted. Good to know. We tried the faulty marine radio and it was still faulty. We tried the non-faulty marine radio and discovered that it was actually also a faulty marine radio. Great. No signal on either.

I slowly used our one emergency paddle to, with much difficulty, move the boat in the direction of our island approximately 3 miles in the distance, while Cynthia began waving at distant passing boats. Finally she got a response from one such boat motoring across the water. The response from the passing boat was unexpected. Apparently, we looked too comfortable in our distress on that sunny afternoon. The people in in the boat thought Cynthia was simply waving at them. They waved back and motored by. From here on the two-arm wave would be employed. Two arms waving generally seems more distressed – either that or very, very friendly.

We finally caught the attention of a large sail boat that was motoring out towards Devil’s Island. They turned towards us and we waited patiently to meet our new friends. The boat was probably 50 feet and had “Minneapolis’ MN” on the back. They threw us a rope and we tied up the boat and they pulled us aboard. We were greeted by a man and woman in their mid-60s and a man in his 40s. We told them our tale of woe and they said they would turn around and take us back to our island.

Not only did they take us on and tow our boat, but they made us some very tasty mixed drinks. We talked with them and found that they knew a lot of the same people we knew from the Minneapolis arts community and we were having a most pleasant time. So much that I think Cynthia had forgotten all about the tattered boat that we were towing. She had positioned herself on the deck so she wouldn’t have to see it. We all laughed and conversed and had a marvelous time until the door from the downstairs cabin opened.

A man came out and up on to the deck. We learned quickly that this man was the partner of the other man. This new man had just awoken from a nap and once he discovered that they were further from their destination he was not happy. Dear kind and reasonable gay friends, I wish I could use another term to describe what transpired, but unfortunately the only phrase is “hissy fit”. I really wish a teenage girl had come out of the same place and reacted the same way, using the phrase “oh, my god” multiple times. That way I wouldn’t be in danger of using a phrase inappropriately. Beyond any classification of sexual preference, the guy was a real selfish ass for being mad that the others stopped to help some stranded people.

The invoker of drama went back down with orders not to be disturbed until their original destination is reached. With the closing of the door his partner apologized and made us another drink. I think Cynthia was hoping we – or possibly just her – could spend the rest of the weekend with them.

As we approached the island we got back into our boat. I held the rope and they sling-shotted us towards the island and I released the rope, drifting us safely to shore. Cynthia waved at them with one arm for what was possibly longer than a normal goodbye. I think she was contemplating adding the other arm to raise it to the distress wave, but she didn’t.

I pulled the front end of the boat onto the beach and put our anchor out in front on the beach. We made a fire and had another good meal and some wine. As the sun went down we saw clouds rolling in. It looked like a rain was coming. We got into our tent and went to sleep.

We were woken up at about one in the morning. Generally one wakes up when one’s tent is bending sideways. The rain was coming down in sheets – not white fluffy breezy bed sheets, but sheets of rain. I was concerned about the boat. I shined the flashlight out on the boat and saw that it was being dragged out into the big lake they don’t call Gitche Gumme. I ran out to try to pull it back up and had to fight for inches. I re-established the anchor and tied two more ropes on and ran them to trees off the beach. That evening I had put up the tattered canopy to help stave off the rain, but the wind thought my efforts were comical and communicated this to me by putting the canopy back down and four feet from the boat.

I ran soaked back to our damp tent and slept lightly the rest of the night. There were no dreams like the night before, only shivers and neck pains as I constantly angled for non-wet space to sleep on. Waking every half hour to ponder how I was going to get the boat and us off this Bear of an island.

Final Part 3 next week

Sadly yours,

Jason Spafford

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