Pulling Out: A Religious Experience

My husband, Matt, earned his boating certification this week. He’s now qualified to pilot a 25-foot sailboat. In honor of his achievement, and to celebrate his efforts toward building his obituary instead of his resume, I’m running this post. I wrote this a few years ago when we lived in Maryland and owned a motorboat. Congratulations, Skipper Matt! You’ve come a long way, Baby!

As a first-time boater, I approach boating with some trepidation. It’s understandable when the boating world presents a “safety” class and all they talk about are fires, drownings, and crashes. (Oh, and sinking. Did I mention sinking?) Because a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, it’s also hard to defer to my fiancée’s experience on bass boats. So you can understand why, when we finally pulled the boat out of the water (in December), I had my doubts. We tried to pull it the week before, but it wouldn’t start. Fun afternoon, really: I stood on the dock, watching Matt crank the engine repeatedly, in rapid succession. “Let it sit a few minutes,” I coached (or nagged, depending on your point of view). “You’ll drain the battery.” Which is exactly what happened. Sadly, it was the last nice, warm day we had.

Well, Matt extracted the battery, bought a battery charger, and set the whole contraption up in our powder room, right under the sink, so you couldn’t wash your hands without getting electrocuted, but I didn’t complain. If this was the key to extracting the boat, I would tolerate it.

The next week, bundled in three warm layers, juiced battery in hand, we set out for the marina. I jogged the three blocks while Matt brought the truck around. Some people get religious when they face their mortality; some just on Christmas and Easter; I always get religious on the way to the marina. “Please, God,” I repeatedly huffed on the jog, “Help us get the boat out this time.”

Matt backed the trailer down the ramp without incident. He unsnapped the boat cover and got in the boat, installed the battery, sat in the driver’s seat and turned the key. Rrrraur rrrrraur rrrraur rrrauh. Please, God, make it start. Please just make it start. Rrr rrr ch ch ch ch ch ch, rrrraur rrrrraur rrrraur. Rrrrraur rrrrraur rrrrraur vroom room roo… After many pleas to the Creator, the engine did catch and hold. As I threw him the ropes, I prayed the engine wouldn’t stall on the 20-foot drive to the ramp. Matt made it to the ramp without incident, even got the boat halfway on the trailer. “Thank you, God,” I thought, “the hard part’s over.”

To avoid the frigid water, Matt climbed up on the trailer, straddling wider on the frame as he moved toward the boat, pulling the cable to the hook. He almost split his jeans, but all went well. He attached the hook, cranked up the boat, and got in the truck.

God definitely has a sense of humor. Matt started his four-cylinder, rear-wheel drive truck, hit the gas and wheeeeeeea, went the right rear wheel. Tried it again. Wheeeeeaaaa. Again. I walked around to that side of the truck and found the problem: the paved part of the ramp doesn’t extend its whole width. It drops off abut 2 feet from the edge and the unpaved part consists of gravel and mud. Matt’s tire was digging into the mud. Frustrated, Matt got out of the truck and found a plank in the grass, shoved it under the wheel and tried again. Wheeeeeaaa! Big, puffy clouds of gray smoke obscured my view of the truck. He jumped out, shrieking, “What’s on fire? What’s on fire?”

Impotently waving away the smoke, I yelled, “I DON’T KNOW!” Turns out the tire’s frantic spinning burned a groove into the plank. “It’s not under right,” Matt said. Uh huh. Kicked it under, got back in the truck. This time the smoke didn’t bother him. I, however, screamed “STOP! STOP!” He pretended not to hear me. Wheeeeaaaa! When he finally did stop, I said, “Honey, I think if you backed the truck down on the paved part of the ramp, you could pull it.”

“No, it doesn’t matter. It’s not gonna work.” Nevertheless, the man climbed back in the truck and, well, you get the picture. After several more tries and lots of smoke, (I swear it’s a direct quote) he said, “Maybe if I pull the truck up and back it down on the paved part, I can get it out.”

“Ok.” That’s all I said.

So we power-launched the boat, driving and stopping short so would it slide back into the water. I held the rope while he created a huge wave with the trailer, wetting the formerly-dry, traction-enabling pavement; pulled it out and backed it in again, this time on the pavement (Hallelujah) and began the whole process again.

Hooked the boat, cranked it up (with roughly a half-inch between it and the dock, got it mostly on the trailer, but not all the way and decided to pull it out of the water and crank on dry land. After a few tries, the tires caught, the truck hauled the boat out of the water, (and this I will never understand) he stopped it while still on an angle to finish cranking. Matt got out of the truck, climbed up on the trailer and I could see him straining as he began to crank. Every time you crank the boat it creaks, and this has always scared me. The boat slowly climbed up the trailer, good, good…PING! “SHIT!”

“What happened?”
Frantically: “The cable broke!”

Normally I am not good in a crisis (ask me about setting the toaster oven on fire), but I was perfectly calm, perhaps because I’d imagined this happening every time we used the crank, and said “Ok, there’s a rope still attached. Tie it to the trailer. Tie it to the trailer, ok?” And God bless him, he did.

Once the boat was tied, Matt said, “I wish it was close enough for the safety strap.” Stretching it to the limit, he was able to attach it. Thy will be done. I owe you one, Big Guy.

We drove it the three blocks home, maneuvered it into the back yard and Matt happened to have a strap to replace the cable. The boat is now out of the water, winterized, we don’t have to buy a new trailer and I am going to church, next week.