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The Aristocraft – Part 3

The morning brought back the sun and it said, “Hey, what’s up with you guys? You need to bail out your boat and isn’t camping fun.” We bailed out the boat. While we bailed out the boat we could see our friend’s sailboat gliding across the lake off in the distance and had no way to communicate with him.

This was now the day that we needed to get back home. Our boating fun needed to be completed. Our only option was to walk to the other side of the island where there was a seasonal post with a retired person who works for the state parks system. We estimated this hike was about a half mile. There was no path. Apparently there were also very few animals on this side of the island because there were no signs of deer paths or any markings of where anyone had walked this direction in many years.

We packed and readied all of our gear and placed in a pile under a tree, and then we started on our march. Not really expecting this kind of activity we were not the best prepared foot gear wise. Cynthia had tennis shoes, but I only had a pair of leather sandals. Twelve steps into the woods one of my sandals broke apart, probably due to age and being wet for past couple days. It was beyond repair, but not wanting to give up on the footwear I dragged the sandal out of the woods and back to the boat to await the rescue.

I turned to the woods and starting running to catch up to Cynthia. BAM! Another casualty. The other sandal ripped apart and was left crying in the sand. I went back to pick it up and I almost could hear it saying ever so quietly, “Go on, get outta here. Leave me behind. I can’t make it. Save yourself.”

My rule is to leave no sandal behind. I picked it up and threw it in the direction of the boat. It bounced off the hull and landed where the beach meets the water. Close enough. That sandal’s on its own. I ran to catch up to Cynthia. My newly bare feet beat across the beach and I was one with nature.

I ran into the woods and now I was really one with nature, as nature’s Pokyness penetrated the bottom of my soft sad feet. Thus began the most painful half mile walk of my life. Wild Boy and his woodland bride slowly crept through the dense woods with the silence only punctuated with oohs and ouchs.

After what seemed like an extremely long duration of time we came to a real path. To be correct, it was the end of the path with a wood fence and pictures of birds and other bits of nature that the path pedestrians could look at and see if they could find any comparisons hiding in the woods in front them. A small group of nature walkers were standing at the path terminal when we emerged out of the woods. We said hi and calmly walked by them, my feet scratched and bloody.

We made our way up the path to a little cabin. The path beyond the cabin ambled toward a dock in the lake where the ferry came every several hours. The cabin was living quarters and information booth. The door was open and we went in. There was a retired man who spent his summers guarding parks and providing information.

We explained our tale of woe and broken marine radios. He said he could call the coast guard and they may be able to help. We were happy for that. He said that we should go back to our boat and he would direct the coast guard over to us. We were not happy for that. It took us 3 hours to walk that distance and there were no shoes for sale in his little log summer retirement home. I explained that it would take a boat on the water eight minutes to reach our boat. He thought it against some kind of protocol to stop and pick us up, but nonetheless he relented and radioed for the coast guard person on duty to motor over to the island.

Shortly after, the coast guard boat arrived. It was an average size speed boat, we’re not talking cutter here. The man was nice enough and we got in the boat for the eight minute ride to the other side of the island. Once we came around the corner our coast guardian had an expression of sadness. It’s that expression I’ve seen from people before. That expression that intones the displeasure with that out of the norm or different from the flock. Sometimes it may be followed by the shake of the head.

The northern Wisconsin coast guard man thought it best to take a look at the motor and see if he could surmise an issue that city wild boy was missing. As he approached the back of the boat he stopped in his tracks and glared at the five gas tanks next to a battery that was now sitting in water. He backed away mumbling something about “Danger”.

He said he could tow us in, but only as far as the reservation. I said that was perfect, because that’s where we were parked. He tied a line to the bow of our boat. Cynthia was already in the coast guard boat. I started to enter the boat and the coast guard said that he needed me to ride in my boat and steer. I climbed in the boat knowing full well this was my punishment for making him do this. I like to believe that he was smart enough to know that I wouldn’t be able to steer a pulled boat. I assumed it would be a good tale for his buddies at happy hour.

“I got this Minneapolis guy to steer the boat while I pulled it. Ha.”

So I sat in the boat and was pulled to shore as the coast guard guy chatted up my woodland bride. Even though it did nothing, I totally steered the boat in every single direction other than the one I was being pulled. I counted the waves like a prisoner marking time on a cell wall. As I saw the reservation nearing I knew I would soon be free.

Once on the dock and released after my restitution, I was given a lecture on how many fines I qualified for with regard to the boat. It seemed like out of pity for Cynthia the coast guard guy was not going to give us a fine. As he was wrapping up his lecture I said,

“You think this is bad, you should see what I’m pulling this thing with,” and pointed to the rust and red colored ’77 Ford F150 on the hill in the parking lot. A scant smile pushed onto his lecturing face.

I backed up the ’77 F150 and pulled the carcass of a boat out of the water. We secured it to the trailer with brownish canvas straps that wanted to be retired. As we drove away water poured from the boat as if it was trying to leave a trail to find its way back to that water- where it may have wanted to die alone on the other side of an island.

The Aristrocraft went on the market the following week. It was sold for $900 to a carpenter who refurbished boats. He too fell for the name and the fins and the sparkling seats. His plan was to restore it to all its glory. I asked if he would also be interested in a ’77 F150, but he passed. We would hold onto the F 150 and continue to search for that next boat – but, first we would have a well-deserved boat break, until my feet healed and we forgot how much fun boats can be.

Sadly yours,

Jason Spafford

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