I wouldn’t call it a guilty pleasure because after all I am helping other people, but when I’m on the water I love to be the hero to someone in need. Often those found in a bad situation are frightened, worried, frustrated or a combination of all three and are in need of a rescue of some kind.
I’ve said this before: boaters are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. If you’re in trouble on the water, all you have to do is start waving your hands and someone will quickly make it over to help.
I’ve been the only guy on the lake with jumper cables that could help a dead battery, or the captain with the extra gas can onboard that was the difference between a long late night row back to the dock and a temporary inconvenience for one family. I’ve been quick to tow a fishing boat to shore that was taking on water as well as a number of other instances that to me took just a little of my day, but to those in need made a huge difference.
One of my favorite hero stories happened a few years ago. I pulled up to the launch ramp to load my boat after a fun day on the water, only to find that some clueless guy had parked his Hyundai hatchback on the ramp. The car was facing the water; the owner didn’t even bother to back it down the ramp. It didn’t have a trailer and it just really looked out of place. It was a double ramp and I knew I could still back down next to it so I didn’t give it any more thought. Just as I was about to load my boat, a guy who had been fishing from the banks came running towards me. He told me there were some teenagers in a canoe in the middle of the lake and it was taking on water.
It didn’t matter that these were probably the two that parked their hatchback on the ramp; I immediately sprung into hero mode and headed out to find them. The odd part was the young couple, not wearing a lot of clothing and without a paddle of course, was still sitting in this mostly submerged canoe and didn’t seem to have a care in the world.
It’s almost like they were oblivious to the fact that the canoe was sinking.
I got them onboard, along with the canoe, and headed back to the dock. I’m still not even positive what exactly was going on in that canoe that day, but it’s safe to say that without lifejackets the fisherman who spotted them probably saved their lives, not their love for each other.
As much as I like being the hero, I’ve also been on the other side, which isn’t nearly as fun. Last fall I was having engine problems with my boat and I took it to a nearby river to see if the problem had been fixed. On one end of this stretch of river is a steep waterfall so I stayed clear of that end until I was confident the boat was better.
I had the boat loaded with my family and everything seemed to be working just, fine so after about a half hour of testing I decided to make a run at the other end that was closest to this waterfall. Of course as luck would have it, just as I made a pass, the engine died for good. My momentum took me away from the falls for a short time, but the current would eventually take us back closer to the falls. I thought for sure we’d make the cover of the local newspaper, figuring the boat was most likely going to go over. But having a good hundred yards or so to work with, I grabbed my paddle and rowed the 25-foot boat to the shore with every ounce of energy I had. Once safe on the banks I quickly got everyone off the boat and just felt relieved that my family was now safe. With no other boats on this stretch of the river, I called up my friend who has a boat and he was the hero on this day as he towed me back to the launch ramp up the river. I guess this is why you “pay it forward” when you see another boater in need. You never know when the hero is going to need a hero.