Feb 11, 2013 The Borrowed Boat

Written By: Kathie Morgan, February 11, 2013

In August David and I accepted a neighbor’s invitation to fish salmon out of Bodega Bay. Yes! 

At 4:45 Wayne picked us up and we headed to the Sonoma Coast, specifically to Mason’s Marina, home of the boat that Wayne had borrowed. We trudged down the dock in darkness and carried our gear aboard. What, no head? No, but they had a bucket. You want privacy? Just pull the door shut from inside the cabin. Hmm.

The fog was cold and permeated with diesel fuel. Gale force winds will not blow away diesel fumes. In the darkness just before dawn, we didn’t have gale force winds so Wayne did his best to create them by running the boat at full speed. With salmon season at its height, we left a multitude of boats in the dust as we charged down the channel. 

Had I known about the wheel and the carburetor and the rail, I’d have been nervous. Ignorance was bliss.

We cleared the Head and headed north. The radio crackled with reports of hookups and losses and fish coming aboard. A boat was sinking, and boats were standing by, and the Coast Guard were on their way.

Something akin to daylight dawned, and there was no swell to speak of but a serious wind chop. Fog obscured the shoreline, the horizon, and the rest of the fleet. 

That fog was the exhalation of salmon panting to be caught, apparently, as fish began to bite as soon as we got lines out. When Wayne rushed to the stern to net David’s fish, I took the wheel. Hmm. A turn to port was soft but doable. But when you turned to starboard you spun the wheel like you’d like to buy a vowel. 

 Wayne told us about a trip two weeks earlier when he opened the throttle and the engine almost died. So he opened the hatch and found that the $300 carburetor with a single trip on it was pouring out gas like nobody’s business. 

Gas all over the top of the engine, in puddles even, just waiting to ignite and burn us up,” he recalled. He grabbed some rags and soaked up the gas, and thanked the Lord for his protective hand. 

We thankfully did the same. We lost our share and we caught our share of good-size salmon, all the while listening to the rescue underway somewhere very near but obscured by the fog. Every turn at the wheel had me watching the instruments for signs of overheating. We finally counted limits all around and headed for the barn.

And couldn’t find it. At full bore, we sailed past the Whistle Buoy and were headed for Tomales Point before visibility got to where we could see landmarks. Hmm. Another wide turn, the only possible turn with a wheel like that, and before you knew it we were in the slot. 

By 11 we had fueled up the borrowed boat. While disembarking, David was just about to say, politely, “We’ll have to do this again” when the one-piece rail came off in his hand. Hmm.

If I survive, I’ll be looking for you on the banks. Maybe not in a borrowed boat.

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