Sunday, July 29, 2012
Where's 004? Where’s the goddamn waypoint?
Bill hunkered down behind the console windscreen, out of the stinging rain, and stabbed desperately at the Lowrance buttons, franticly popping up glowing GPS coordinates and relief maps and menus and who knows what in rapid succession, searching urgently for the tiny boat ramp icon as we skipped across the surface of the lake like a thrown stone. Into darkness.
Where's 004? Where's 004!?
I was of little help as I was forward, trying to reseat the flickering running light, holding tight to the rails and keeping a wary eye on the sporadically and spectacularly illuminated sky closing quickly behind us, chasing us off the water like some freakish Fourth-of-July display gone out of control. Someone had dropped a match in the skyrocket box and we were getting our asses out of there before it blew.
We’ve pushed a lot of limits, Bill and I, but we draw the line at lightning. This time, though, we'd drawn it a bit thin.
Notions of landlocked summer stripers busting bait balls at dusk had taken us to Kerr Lake, a couple hours north, braving the 50/50 chance of afternoon and evening thunderstorms that are a constant fact of life here in the South. We launched the boat into a spectacular 180-degree double rainbow, hoping it meant good luck for the evening, but several miles down the lake the sky went squirrely, sending us back from whence we came, in a hurry and in absolute darkness. A few technical challenges on our hasty retreat raised the adrenaline level just enough to make us feel truly alive.
And wishing to stay that way.
Bill ultimately sorted out the GPS and we found the unlit twenty-four-hour launch, though we did pass it by twice before my Petzel picked it out in the gloom. As is often the case, our return to safety coincided precisely with the clearing of the skies – a frustration, for sure, but we didn’t second-guess our decision to turn tail and run. That crackly stuff isn’t something to be trifled with.
Our gas level precluded a second trip down the lake so we trolled the creeks around the launch, pitching poppers at the banks and clousers at shadows on the fish-finder without much success. But midnight on the lake came still and cool, well worth the earlier trauma and lack of fish. The soft swish of fly rods in the dark, the gurgle of poppers in unseen waters, and the twinkle and smell of distant campfires soothed our jangled nerves and closed the evening quite nicely.
And we got to see one heck of a fireworks display, if just a little too close for comfort.