“Any day I spend on the water is a good one,” my brother’s friend Doug’s words came to mind as we glided out across the bay, the “stonka-stonka” of the motor running in the background. A glass calm day is a rarity on the island, where the wind blows incessantly off of the lake most of the time.
The children chattered and scampered around the deck, taking turns at the helm, leaning off of the prow spotting carp and pike swimming near the surface, and hopping in and out of the rowboat we were towing ten yards behind, trolling for fish.
It took about an hour to motor out of the bay and up toward the head of the island to Hinkley Flats and another half an hour of working a lazy grid pattern across the charts to find the wrecks. There are three of them, old boats stripped for salvage by the local boys and left to flounder in the shallow water just off of the shoal.
As we came onto the flats everyone lined up on deck to cover every bit of river bed with fresh eyes, Gramps announced, “Twenty five cents to the first guy to sight a wreck!”
Ezra, looking intently at the deck of Skoro, with his signature deadpan humor, retorts: “I see a wreck.”
“HEY! Not MY boat! You rat-fink! Under water!”
We all howled and I giggled so hard that I swerved the boat off of Gramps’ prescribed course and it took us two more passes before we found them.
Lunch was wolfed down while children sorted through the pile of masks and fins to find something that fit. Ezra, who’d lost his mask some weeks ago, grumbled that mine was too big for him.
Gabe & Hannah leapt first into the clear grey green river water and snorkeled out over the green ghost of the wreck, ribs stretching like bony fingers for the mirrored surface.
Ezra was next, but not until he succeeded in dragging Hannah back from her explorations to “catch” him right by the boat.
Elisha was another matter altogether. All through lunch he kept mentioning how “freaky” the wreck looked, trying to work up the nerve to jump. When he finally did, he lost a flipper and came up crying… which turned to screaming when he stuck his face in the water and took his first look at the wreck.
Grammy calmed him in the water, shoving his snorkel into his open mouth so he wouldn’t drink half the lake whilst howling. Finally, with a floaty-noodle, wedged under his armpits, his new birthday flippers on his feet and hyperventilating loud enough for me to hear him on the deck of the boat he set off to explore the wreck.
Diving on a wreck is a little freaky, especially the first time. There’s no denying the death of something large that was once filled with life. Stories of shipwrecks and storms, the Titanic and The Perfect Storm, swirl just out of reach in the murky depths. Little fish darted in and out of the gelatinous green foam growing between the zebra mussels and obscuring the original boat completely.
This particular wreck is a long one, longer than the footprint of our house on the island.(Gramps estimates 271 feet long and 24 feet wide) I chased a trio of small mouth bass down the long beam running the length of the interior and wondered just what sort of boat this had been, once upon a time.
The wind came up while we were diving, turning the huge screws of the windmills that pepper the head of the island, and the kids hoisted the jib for the return trip. I missed most of the sail home, sleeping peacefully on the deck. “You know the best thing about sailing,” I whispered to Grammy, who was also snoozing in the sun, “It’s mostly men’s work!” She giggled and we dozed until Ez began shouting from the prow of the boat:
“MY HAT!!! MY HAT IS OVERBOARD!!”
Gramps swung wide, Elisha dove for the boat hook and they put in to practice the drill that Gramps has been running for years: search and rescue. Last time we went sailing it was my orange Croc that got turfed overboard to practice on.
Elisha was the hero, expertly dipping the floating hat from the surface on the first pass at ramming speed. Ezra crammed his head into the dripping lid and returned to his post on the bow.