Another Day in the Boats

He came to Lake Worth Inlet from somewhere up in “The Great Northwest,” another life boat station but along the Pacific Coast. He was an “Engineman.” (aka: a “snipe.”)

He looked around at “Peanut Island” and our cozy, very affluent surroundings … at the nice, gentle, blue-green Atlantic Ocean out beyond the inlet … and scoffed.

HE … was a “salt” … HE came from where the “Real Weather” was. We were just shallow water sailors in pretty boats on a calm tropical island chaperoning the upturned noses of the pre-teeners roaring up and down the Intracoastal Waterway in daddy’s V-8 Donzi.

Why, we even had a ski boat. Pfffff … reeeally??!

Seventeen feet long, the glass runabout was powered by a Chevy six cylinder mill that turned a MerCruiser stern drive. It was the “update” for what was basically a powered rowboat we had been using as a “liberty launch” to and from the island.

… and it did have a “ski bar” fixed across the stern. We all took one look at it, looked around at each other and said, “Pursuit boat …” The throttle was “governed” to limit … velocity … and the engineers quickly learned to “UN” govern that bitch … and let’er rip … a few hundred pounds of fiberglass floating a six cylinder engine. Someone who understood these things had installed a thick stainless steel grab bar on the dash forward of the passenger seat … heh heh …

She was a rocket, a skipping stone. Being among the “Duty Seamen” and a striking coxs’n I frequently enjoyed handling her. Oohhhh, yes … I did enjoy that!

So, “Salty” the Engineman had been there a little while, a little, uneventful “while.” Just a liiiiittle longer a “while” than it took to get totally over listening to his “salty dog” crap and his scoffing derision.

He and I had the pursuit boat. We were between the Port and the Station in a cold, nasty, choppy Intracoastal Waterway. It was an “inland” waterway … and when the wind and tides ran in just the right directions, it’d “stand up” pretty good. It was walkin’ around on that afternoon. It was windy and it was cold and it was cloudy and we were bouncin’ around out there … doin’ … somethin’ … who knows …

… and the radio lit up: There was a man in the water, clinging to a sinking overturned boat east of the channel down by the Flagler Bridge.

“10-4 We are en route.”

I turned south … it was three miles down there … and I had a boat that could cover it in somewhere near three minutes … in the flat.

It was not … flat … and I took off.

I knew the boat. I knew the water … and I let rip everything I could, and we screamed down the Intracoastal, pounding and bounding and leaping.

It’s hard to describe exactly what that’s like. You have to watch the “incoming” seas and make adjustments in throttle and steering to pilot safely and the boat leaves the water a lot … and comes thumping down in huge spreading sprays … you try to keep the prop in the water … that’s important … and there are brief but repeated instances of … reduced gravity? …

And we did literally bound down the channel. She was a tough, powerful boat and we had a man in the water.

I was pretty much … taken up … with the job at hand and committed to the fastest possible approach to the scene, so I didn’t have time to look around at much … and I did get a “grin” in the midst of all that, when I glanced over to see two white-knuckled fists welded around that grab bar in front of the passenger seat … heh heh … eeyeah …

We reached the scene. There was a man up to his ears in the water reaching and clinging to the keel of a capsized boat awash in the chilly chop, and we slid alongside and pulled him out of the water, cold and pale … and alive.

… and the crew of Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet were only rarely thereafter regaled with tales of rough seas in distant places.

“Yeah, yeah … Wanna go f’r a ride?”  ;<)

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