Sunday, July 29, 2012

Running Dark

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.


Unknown said...

Reading your posts of our misadventures is always a hoot. We will do it again soon!

Mike Sepelak said...

I'm ready, Bill. Our outings are always such a rich source of material. Interpret that as you will. :-)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like fun; wish I could have been there. Good thing I stayed home, though. Just about on death's doorstep, as it is. Next time. Would've been a good night for glass rods, by the way. :)

Unknown said...

I am going to have to watch my language around you Mike. I just read it again and realized I probably let them all fly after not finding 004!

Ken, it was quite an adventure!

Mike Sepelak said...

Fun indeed, Ken. Kick that sinus stuff, soon, and get back to it.

And by all means clean up that potty mouth, Bill. You know how it disturbs my delicate constitution.

M.A. Hughes said...

Sometimes the best thing landed on a trip is the boat. Wish you had a nice striper photo to share, but I enjoyed your survival story more.

Mike Sepelak said...

Sometimes the best thing landed on a trip is the boat.

A great line, RR. I may just have to steal that sometime. THANKS!

Jeff Madre said...

A couple of years ago, a group of us got caught in a thunderstorm at night while we were 2 miles out in the Pamlico Sound, in kayaks. It was not fun.

Mike Sepelak said...

YIKES, Jeff. No fun at all!