The Waveswimmer

I own a Waverunner. That is to say, I possess legal title to a personal watercraft which bears the trade name “Waverunner.” It should not imply that the 21 year old fiberglass beastie is actually capable of running waves, or apparently even running… at least any more.

This critter is ancient by personal watercraft standards. It was the original model in the entire world of jet-pump powered PWCs. But with a (theoretical) top speed of 36 mph, it pales next to its modern kin who are capable of hauling 3 people at 80 mph. You might think it should be retired to a museum, but it’s far too worn for that fate. It shows its age. Every year I wonder if I’ll get one more season from her.

I pulled her out of storage this past weekend and prepped her for another year. She labored to start, but eventually did. Satisfied that I’d ducked a bullet again, I went into the cottage for dinner. Afterwards I thought I’d just pop her in the water and take a quick spin up the lake to see if she was running okay. I was only intending to be gone a few minutes, so I didn’t bother to tell anyone, I just rolled her down to the lake and hopped on.

She fired up immediately and we scooted off. However, not far up the lake, I thought I heard the engine acting funny. I figured I should head back and eased up on the throttle to turn around. And she died. No amount of coaxing was going to get her to start again. It was at this point that I realized that:

a) I was a good mile from the dock
b) I was an idiot for not telling anyone where I was going

Fortunately, I wasn’t too far from shore, so I hopped in and pushed the small boat to the edge. I opened the engine compartment, but armed only with a life jacket and a pair of shorts, I was pretty sure even MacGyver couldn’t have fixed this. Which left me to consider my options. I thought about walking back to the cottage, but that would actually be several miles of walking given the way the lakeshore and roads ran at that point. It was late in the day and if I wasn’t back before dark, people would start to get worried. And what if they did come looking for me and just found the boat abandoned on the shore?

I looked down the lake and could just make out our dock. Also, this was a fairly busy channel and a holiday weekend. I had certainly rescued my share of boaters over the years, maybe it was just time to even out the cosmic karma. So I decided I would push the boat back out into the channel, climb on, and wait to be rescued. Someone could tow me back to shore and maybe I wouldn’t even have been missed yet.

However, after 10 minutes of bobbing on the waves, it was pretty clear that everyone else on the lake was at dinner. There wasn’t a boat in sight. So I figured, rather than just sit, I’d start making my way back as best I could and hope to be rescued along the way. I hopped in again and started swimming and pushing the boat in front of me. The minutes ticked by… still no boats in sight. Finally a Bass Boat was coming in the other direction. He was cutting a serious rug though and didn’t even look in my direction as he blew by me. He obviously had not seen the boating commercials where they make it clear that boating ettiquite requires that you look at and wave to every fellow boater on the water. Especially the ones who are pushing their damn boats!

I was swimming with the wind which was a definite help, and after a fashion at least got back close enough that I was swimming by cottages on our road. One lady seemed to come out on her deck and watch me, but as there was no boat in front of that cottage, I didn’t hold out much hope. Finally, when I got to within 100 yards of our dock, two guys spotted me and jumped in their boat to make a rescue. While they didn’t take me far, it was still a welcome hand. It had been a long swim.

And when I got back, while everyone was glad I was okay, I took a well deserved lashing for my foolishness of not filing a flight plan with the tower before departure. I freely admit that I’m serving as a bad example to the kids.

As for the boat, the intake manifold stud sheered off which left the carbeurator a bit floppy. That remains to be fixed, but it is fixable. So in all liklihood, the ancient sea creature will rise again to creak across the waves… per chance to run them now and again.

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