Boating With Capt’n Bob

The following is a true story and the names have not been changed because there are no innocent, we were all guilty of stupidity. This happened quite a few summers ago, but is as clear today as back then. After reading, you’ll understand why.

We all started out bright and early for a day out on the water. The five of us; my brothers Rick and Dave, myself and two Bob’s, Bob P. and Captain Bob were looking forward to a fun day out boating. Since we all lived in the city, and none of us owned a boat we went on down to Bill’s Boat Rentals on Miller’s Island. Bill was a crusty old fellow who reminded you of Poopdeck Pappy. He had owned Bill’s Boats forever and proudly stated that he had built each of these 14′ wooden boats himself, and kept repeating, “yea, I built these boats, they’ll outlast me”. We would all nod and say something like “is that right” but thinking as old as you are, that shouldn’t be a problem. After a few minutes of Bill instructing us on what not to do and where not to go, we started off.

It was a calm sunny day as we headed out on the water. Miller’s Island sits at the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay. There’s a series of small islands there that are either uninhabited or used by Aberdeen Proving Ground, a government weapons testing agency. The inlets are shallow but quickly drop off into deeper water out in the channels. As instructed, we stayed within the inlets for the first few hours, playing Kamikazee with each other, investigating the islands, and doing some swimming.

It was starting to get hot as the day was clear and the high temperatures were suppossed to be around 95 degrees. We got back in the boats with our boat in the lead and Captain Bob manning the stick. (Captain Bob was one of those types of people that was super intelligent with zero common sense). Without a word he started heading for the channel. We all kind of wondered what he was doing, and eventually one of us asked him, “where you going Bob”? “Uhhh, just over here to the other side”. Not wanting to spoil anyone’s fun, I figured well, what the heck. We made it across the channel fighting with the waves along the way, but we eventually got over there. After going a ways further along the coast, my brother Rick yelled from the other boat, “you better check your gas”. Sure enough, 5 gallons of gas doesn’t get you very far, and we were well on the way to empty. I told Bob that we needed to turn around and try and find some gas as soon as possible. We got as far as the other side of the channel when the thing died. We were out of gas! After talking to the guys in the other boat, we decided that they would go and get some gas and bring it back to us, and we would hangout with the boat.

Captain Bob and I pulled the boat along the shore, and could do nothing but wait for the other guys to return. By this time, it was about three in the afternoon, and it was scorching hot. We kept getting into the water, trying to get out of the sun and heat as much as possible but it wasn’t working. We were being cooked. After a few hours had passed with no sign of the other guys, I thought that I had to do something so I told Captain Bob that I was going to go up on shore and try and find somebody, or something. I started walking along the road and noticed how deadly quiet it was. I got a little further in and noticed a couple of shacks. I went up to them and on the shack was a skull and crossbones sign and the warning, ‘Stay out, Contaminated’ or something to that effect. I was at the Aberdeen Proving Ground arsenal, the place where they test weapons, mustard gas, things like that! I figured this place wasn’t a safe place to be, and got out of there pronto!

Arriving back at the boat, I told Captain Bob what I had run across. He listened and said, “well, I’ve got more bad news, I put the propeller down in the water and tried to start it, and I believe I broke something”. About this time, I had just about had enough, and let out with a few expletives and wondering out loud how he could be so stupid to try and start the engine in two feet of water? After cooling down a bit, we realized our situation was getting pretty desperate as it was going to be dark in another hour or so. We decided that we had better try and get out to the channel, and get the attention of someone else. We started pushing and pulling the boat along the shore, around a corner hoping to see anyone come by who could offer us some aid.

After about an hour, we happened to see a boat coming by, and after waving frantically, caught their attention, and they came on over to investigate. After explaining our situation, the guy told us that he would give us a tow to the nearest marina, which was just about 5 miles away. We made it there and after thanking the guy a thousand times, got the number of Bill’s Boats and called him to tell him our situation and where we were. To say the least, Bill’s son was a bit angry. He told us that they had been out looking for us for a couple of hours. My brother Dave had gone out with him to try and find us but just couldn’t remember where they had left us. Out there it all sort of looks the same really.

Bill’s son arrived a bit later, and tied the rowboat up to his cruiser and towed us all back to his dad’s place. It was dark by now, and we were all tired and miserable. We later found out that my brothers and Bob P. had also ran out of gas near Bill’s and had to get towed in themselves! After a lot of grumbling from Bill’s son, he told us that the piece we broke would cost about $100! We all pitched in to come up with the money, and finally jumped in our cars to make our way home. It had been one long day of boating misadventures to say the least.

The moral of the story is, when you go out boating, be prepared for the unexpected, or perhaps.. never let the brainy guy be the Captain or you may wind up..up the river without a motor!

This article was originally published by me several years ago

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