October Boating

October Boating

Yesterday while you were working, the lake did what it does in October. It went quiet. Sure, the lake goes quiet during the days that came from the last ice out until the coming one, but it generally only goes quiet in the morning, for those first up to fish or ski. Or it goes quiet in the evening, when the last cruise boats push through the night, and the water falls flat. In January, the lake is flat rather often. Those freezing nights and those bright sky days, but those days are of no use to the boating faithful. Yesterday, that was a day we could use, but you were at work.

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I have had a complicated boating relationship over the past several years. When I first bought my fishing boat in the winter of 2010, I found time to use it often. On stormy evenings when my kids didn’t want to, we fished anyway. And on sunny afternoons when there were emails to send and calls to field, I would do both from the bow of that new toy. But as with most toys, the pleasure faded. It faded because of a smokey two-stroke that would be complimented if called temperamental. The instruments only worked once in a while, and if I trolled with large lures the carburetors would bog down and the boat would cause a smokey scene when I coerced it back to life. Even that wasn’t a guarantee.

But it wasn’t just the boats fault. It was mine. I switch hobbies like some change tires, and every few years or 30,000 miles I feel the need to indulge in another pursuit. This was the boating pursuit, and that the boat was and is actually a Pursuit is, I assure you, pure coincidence. The boating fueled my fishing, and my fishing fueled the transition to fly fishing. While I fly fish in Geneva as often as it seems reasonable, I prefer the small trickle of a valley stream, and so much of my free time has been spent in that pursuit. While I fished the buoyed Pursuit just collected dust, and spiders. And their webs. And yesterday, in the seaweedy fungus that filled the back of the boat where water is allowed to flow in and out through two small drain portholes, a small maple tree.

Yesterday the inland trout season was closed, and the sun was bright and the water still, and so I fired up the old boat and took it for a ride. It didn’t really want to do that, but after some time of trying, the engine teased to life and choked out the smoke from a summer of neglect. I took the boat out and around, cruised some shorelines and sat in the middle of the lake with nothing to do but consider what a shame it was that I left that boat to the spiders and the maple trees.

There was little time to sulk and reminisce, because the water was just too flat and the sun too warm. The forecast called for cool, but the day was anything but. Late into the afternoon I sat there, wondering what could be better, answering the pensive question with an obvious answer: the boat. There were some other boaters out with me, the select few that found their way to their piers and onto their boats on that October afternoon. Fishermen quietly cast their lures and slung their baits. Some remnant Mastercrafts slowly pushed through the calm, throwing their massive breaking waves so the surfer could surf. Sailboats clung to their buoys, wishing for a breeze but finding none. A couple paddled by on their paddle boards, cutting right through the middle of the lake in a way that would signal sure death on a busy August Saturday. The lake was back to the way I prefer it.

While afloat, a text from a friend. He, too, was on his boat. He, too, should have been working. He, too, had some flexibility and he, too, found his way to this lake on that day. But after finding my way to his boat he had more sorrow than joy. His boat would need to be pulled from the lake this week, no later than the tenth of October, so sayeth his association. Then this morning, a call from my dad. He needed help. Had he fallen? No. He needed help pulling his boat from the water, on the most beautiful day of the year, on the stillest moment of the day, at the beginning of the best boat month on the calendar. Now at this computer, I’m distracted by trucks. Trucks towing trailers. Trailers with boats. Boats not heading to the lake but from it. From the lake and to dusty storage barns where they will be tucked in for the winter, on the most beautiful day of the year.

This is the fall rush. It happens because the old people are in charge of the boating world. They run the associations that tell us we must remove our boats. They live in fear of the first frost, of strong northerly winds, of changing seasons. I, on the other hand, live in fear of missing the opportunity to sit on a boat on a day like this one. Which is why I play chicken with winter each and every year, choosing only to remove my neglected boat from the water once I need to break some ice to clear a path to the launch.

Today, two words of advice. Call in sick. Get to the lake. Sure, Sunday is going to be warm, but Sunday is many days from now. Today is warm, you have a boat, your association or your pier guy is old and wishes you to remove your boat immediately so that he doesn’t have to break ice to remove the pier. The second word of advice is even more simple. If you own an association home and you wish to no longer be forced into this sin of early boat removal, you have one very easy way to fix this. Buy a private lakefront house with a private pier. Then you can be like me, and we can remove our boats only when the snow flies. This way, we won’t miss the days in October and surely some in November that will more than justify our irrational decision.

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