"It won't start," the young woman shouted from the stern of the 20-foot-something powerboat drifting near Picnic Island just off the 'Miserable Mile.'
"Do you have an anchor," Erie Earl shouted back to her. She looked puzzled and shook her head. "We don't want to anchor?"
"You'll need to stay put until your towing service can get here." "Can't you tow us," she asked.
"We aren't a towing service, and we aren't insured to cover damage to your boat," I replied. Their boat was drifting closer to the flats and if they didn't anchor or we didn't throw them a line, they would be aground. "Throw them a line, Earl."
"You're taking a hell of a chance," said Cap'n Crunch.
"I know, Crunchie, I know. I don't have a proper tow line and those spare dock lines can easily part but they're wearing bikinis and it's against the unofficial law of the seas to leave bikini-clad damsels in distress."
They didn't know how to tie a line to a cleat and weren't even sure they knew what a cleat was. We hauled away like the old time sailors, hand over hand on the rope while they held on. No one said 'heave ho' but it would have been appropriate. Once alongside we were able to give them a rudimentary lesson in seamanship. "That horn sort of thing on the front is a cleat, the loop end of this rope needs to go underneath and around the horns," Crunchie explained.
"Oh, I knew that was a cleat," said the older girl, "but I've never tied anything onto one before!"
"That's why we did it the easy way, darlin'," said Texas Pete.
"Do you have any beer on your boat," asked the younger one.
"I'm afraid we're fresh out," I said ignoring the fact that there was at least four aboard that I remembered. They didn't appear to have any way to carry an ID, and the beer was way down in the cooler covered with ice and fish.
"Earl, climb aboard their boat and keep the boat going straight behind me," I said.
"You lucky dog. I should go with him," said Texas Pete.
"I'm going to get some pictures," I said after Earl was aboard. Pete stayed where he was. No use making his better half angry.
We didn't have to go far. Their destination was Jonathan Harbor. We assisted them loading the powerless boat onto their grandfather's lift and they treated our bug-eyed group with unsweetened ice tea. At that point I had to ask, "Why didn't you call your towing service when the engine stopped?"
"We don't have a towing service," said the older of the three college-aged girls. "I called Granddad, and he said he dropped the 'Sea Tow' service after the free period ended.
"That's a very intelligent grandfather, you have," said Erie Earl. "Letting his granddaughters flag down complete strangers."
"Oh you fellows looked harmless," said the younger one. If she had said that earlier I would have cut them loose.
"This boat is practically new," said another of them in a puzzled tone.
"New or old, they all break sooner or later," said Earl.
We tinkered around under the cowling for a little while and probably never would have left if the first drop of rain hadn't encouraged the girls to put on their cover-ups. We gave them several dockside mechanics business cards and argued briefly which one was the best. Then the rain started for real, and we headed for home.
I did get some great cheesecake pics and the girls loved teasing us old guys. As soon as the camera dries out I'll try to post them to the "Dead End Canal Yacht Club's" website. This is the perfect way to boat, and we thoroughly enjoyed the fishing, the lunch at the Waterfront Restaurant in St James City and our 'good deed.' It was the sort of day that our dear friend John will certainly miss.
A tribute, "Goodbye old friend, I'm leaving Cheyenne!" Sometimes your old friends just don't want to live in the manner fate has dealt. 'New York John' was an active and healthy bachelor senior citizen who loved to work out several days a week at a local gym. After his first stroke at the gym, he struggled to get his right side to fully function. When he could touch all of the fingers on his right hand with his thumb, he proudly returned to the gym.
Some of his friends questioned his decision to return to exercising. Whether that was truly dangerous or just coincidental we will never know. His second stroke, at the gym, was massive. Friends who visited him in the hospital said he wanted them to 'get him out of there' but they couldn't. He went north with his son before he died. The 'Dead End Canal Yacht Club' will miss 'New York John' Healy as well as his neighbors, fishing buddies, friends at local watering holes and a few bartenders. He had no local family but a lot of local people will miss him.
Send questions and comments to boatguiEd@aol.com or stop by the 'U Sell & Storage' on San Carlos Boulevard next to Jerry's Tire. I won't be there but say hello to Mrs. boatguy. Watch my son on 'Boater's Treasures TV' show returning this October!