Let me tell you all a true story of woe.
About a month ago, my son and I rented a canoe at a local state park. Despite the muscle cramps, sunburn and numerous other ailments of 'the great outdoors' it was a lot of fun. We enjoyed it enough that we decided to buy our very own boat or kayaks. As they are very expensive and difficult to haul around, we asked my dad to be on the lookout for a gentle used boat at the flea market. What he found was a massive inflatable raft, large enough to support 'Seal team 6' in their quest for Bin Laden.
As beggars can't be choosers and it helped solve the transportation problem, we decided to give it a try. The thing is, a massive raft isn't as easy to maneuver on the lake as a two person kayak is. (And that ain't exactly easy, either) so I began trying to decide how to engineer a canopy covering for us. The boat had numerous eyelets and oar holders so I came up with a cross oar tent like thing to drape a tarp over. My son is much like me. He gets excited over projects until he's almost manic about them. He spent most of his days thinking about the maiden voyage of the 'SS Bandy'. We needed more oars, we needed a tarp and rope, draw ties, oar parts, line, a cooler, life jackets, etc. for the next month, this is all he talked about. We went to sporting goods stores, pawn shops, Walmart and online shopping places to acquire our needed outdoor gear.
Then I had nasal surgery to fix a lifelong breathing issue and the recovery time was about a month. Every day, my son would ask how my recovery was coming along (not out of a general concern, as much as to gauge when we could take the massive boat trip. My recovery time gave us a needed pause for me to heal and pick up our boating supplies. It also allowed three scorching Georgia summer weeks to pass for slightly kinder weather. While it killed my son to wait, I simply didn't have the strength to deal with the heat and all that rowing in the blazing sun. The canopy idea was my solution to still being in a weakened state.
Also, the raft came with a foot pump. Yes, a foot pump. When I tested out the raft at home to make sure all three chambers held air, it took me more than 15 minutes of furious pumping to inflate it. (In 71 degree air conditioning). The thought of doing the same thing out in the heat was very unappealing. We had a DC adaptor (or AC, whichever a car isn't) and were given an electric pump by a coworker. It seemed like we had all the bases covered. Every weekend my son hoped would be 'the one' where we took the floating behemoth out on the lake. Finally I thought it was time.
That morning we loaded up the boat (still half inflated and doubled over), the cooler, all the oars, the tarp and tie downs, the rope and life jackets, a duffle bag of duct tape and zipper sandwich bags for my phone and keys, the electric pump, towels, a change of clothes, and four hundred other things. (Not including the water, sports drinks, 10 pounds of ice and junk food we intended to buy at the store.)
As it turns out, the AC adaptor and electric pump wouldn't work. The motor drew too much power for the adapter to handle. So my fears were realized. I had to use the manual pump in the noon sunlight of a Georgia summer. As if that didn't destroy me, then I had to construct the canopy. There was no shade anywhere. The sun beat down on me until I because woozy, disoriented and saw spots. A dwarf lady told me to head toward the light but I refused. All kidding aside, we weren't even in the water and I was already about to have a heart attack and pass out. Before lugging the flotilla down to the waters edge, I got in the car and cranked the AC one last time to bring down my core temperature. It may have saved my life for what was about to come.
The canopy apparatus I engineered for our new inflatable raft (four boat oars crossed in pairs and tethered with a lightweight, coated planter stake top beam, held together by rope and covered with a tarp) worked brilliantly to keep the searing sun off of us. It was a little slice of heaven sitting there (just the two of us) eating thirty dollars worth of junk food snacks and 'sports drinks'. We floated gently down to the end of the lake by the natural current and the surprisingly strong gusts of wind (which saw our tarp as a perfect sail.
The problem was (and it was a problem) the same tarp that protected us, was also our achilles' heel. Once we hit the end of the lake, it wouldn't let us return. No amount of rowing could move us out of the shallows at the very end of the lake. We fought the current and wind for some time with all our carb fueled might, then we reluctantly realized that we were trapped until we dismantled the tarp covering us.
Besides being blazing hot in the middle of the day; I didn't construct it to come apart easily. As a matter of fact, it was tied together to survive a tropical storm. That might have been admirable except we were being pushed by the wind into the thick weeds in the shallows that I feared was infested with water moccasins. After an enormous amount of time struggling, we lowered our unintentional sails and tried to paddle back. By this time we were exhausted and we were as far away from the landing dock as we could be. We paddled fiercely for a long time but the current just drove us back to the shallows. I was starting to get sun burned and angry. Aleister was out of strength and wasn't rowing and we kept getting pushed back.
Even when he did row, it was countering my efforts and just spinning the raft. Finally I'd had enough and decided I would go ashore and drag the boat (from the coast) by rope in the shallow edge of the water all the way around the lake. The problem was, the rope wasn't long enough and the coast was hilly and rugged terrain. Soon I was standing in the tall weeds and hoping there were no snakes.
Finally I went back in the water and tried to drag the boat (while I was in waist deep) until we could escape the current and make progress. This was a huge mistake. I was wearing sandals and the immediately sank into deep, four inch mud that oozed between my feet and toes. Many times my sandals just stuck in the muck and pulled my sandals off. I was stepping on hideous, unmentionable things. 'Things' were swirling around my legs and feet. I kept stepping on old logs and mysterious things that I shall never forget. I imagined 'okie noodling' with my feet and being seized by giant catfish as I slipped and tripped over slimy river debris and stepped into massive holes. I imagined contracting that nasty flesh eating bacteria from all the flesh wounds I received. I imagined stepping on lost fish hooks and swimming in fish poop. It's hell having a lucid imagination. There was an alligator captured in the river about ten miles from here recently. … I decided I'd pulled us far enough along and decided I needed to get back in the boat.
It was then that I saw the spider in my seat. It didn't want to leave and I didn't want flesh eating bacteria in my wounds. I worried about the spider biting me in the cramped quarters of the boat while we languished against the current. (But we weren't going to starve to death with the floating junk food debris in the boat…) I assumed they would find two well fed corpses in the boat, back at the shallows. Finally we made a truce and I hopped in. (And the cooler full of icy water and power aid dumped into the deck of the raft). Cookies and Doritos were everywhere. My cell phone and keys were in a plastic bag and at risk of floating off. The wind caught the cooler lid and tossed it back in the shallows that we had just escaped from. I wasn't about to go back for it.
Aleister and I were slowly roasting in the sun and exhausted. We tried to row but since I weigh twice what he does, we just spun in four hundred circles with very little forward progress. Hellish heat from above, icy cooler water from below in our extremities. All while spinning in a circle and often floating backwards toward failure.
The spider ate the bacon flavored crisps while we tried to break free of the relentless current. As we made minuscule, incremental progress, I tried to remain positive and estimate our distance from shore. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done but somehow we made it back to the boat launch. Near the end my fingers locked up and literally wouldn't open. The boat is still in the back of Gretchen's SUV. We may leave it there as a memorial shrine.
Just call me landlubber.