Thursday, March 31, 2011

First Storm In A Boat

by William L. Gills aka Bos'n Bill

Dad had given me permission to take a rowboat, a three horse Evinrude and two friends, Doug and Steve out fishing for a few hours.  That summer day we decided to take an afternoon out on the Northeast fork of the Great Sacandaga Lake, angling for large mouth bass.  The air was heavy and damp, the sun breaking through the clouds, enough to make it uncomfortably hot.  We pulled up a makeshift anchor, a ten inch hunk of cinderblock on an anchor line of fraying braided cotton and dropped it into the bow of a fourteen foot wooden rowboat. Expressing confidence we could handle any situation that might come our way, like maybe a sinking boat, we agreed to go beyond the limits set by my dad.

It was pretty easy going, waves following us as we cruised as fast as a three horse power head could carry us. Anchored thirty yards off Placid Point, Doug plucked earthworms from small carton of mulch, one for each of us.  We threaded our worms as quickly as we could, each of us hoping for the first catch of the day and the biggest fish in the lake. We sat there for about two hours without any luck when we heard a faint rumble of thunder somewhere in the valleys of the Adirondack Mountains.  We continued fishing.  The deal was we’d leave as soon as somebody had a nibble. 

Suddenly, the sky turned a deep blue and we could see flashes of light blanching the sky over the steep mountains to starboard.   The storm was bearing down on us fast.  “Steve, pull up the anchor, we gotta get outta here!”

We reeled in our lines without securing hooks which dangled and swirled in the ever increasing wind.  A brilliant flash of light caught us by surprise as the air crackled, followed by a sonic boom which reverberated in the canyon between the surrounding mountains, disturbing the water beneath us.  Nickel sized droplets of rain fell heavy graying the blue water around us; the wind becoming ferocious.

Anchor drawn, I pulled on the starter chord, adrenaline kicking in when I realized it might not start.  I stood there looking to the oars. “We’re going to have to start rowing you guys or we’ll be blown downwind toward the dam!”  Doug didn’t hesitate.  We were losing ground fast in the brisk wind and oncoming short troughed, steep crested waves.

I pulled the chord one more time with a sputter.  It’s got to start.  There’s no reason why it shouldn’t.  Did I forget something?  I choked the motor and made sure the gas fill was getting air and tried again. This time I gave it my best tug and it snapped to attention.

Buckets of water were coming into the boat over the bow and port forward quarter as we pointed home.  Steve shifted to the rowing seat next to Doug to get the weight balanced, bow up.  They were using the bailer we had aboard; one lone paint can passed between them to keep up with the flood of water that was threatening to scuttle us.

I thought about that possibility as I squinted into the wind and blinding rain to get a bead on the next wave, the shoreline and our forward progress.  As I went to glance over Doug’s left shoulder I noticed a torrent of water running down his drenched forehead, off his nose onto the rowing seat and swamped floorboards.   We were moving ahead very slowly, almost as if we were in chains, the boat a third full of water.  We were losing the battle.

By this time, we were in life jackets with the ties still loosened.  There was no time to tend to them; we had waited too long and underestimated the power of a thunderstorm. Explosions of light continued to harass with a dazzling, frightening display of blue lightening. The air turned cold and hail pelted us with BB shot.  We were soaked, shivering and tired from the strain and futility of bailing, but we continued on, lamenting and grousing with occasional bursts of displaced laughter.

As the wind eventually petered to a strong breeze and the waves were no longer capped in white, we felt relief in the knowledge that we were going to make it to home soon and that we collectively endured our first, worst storm ever, vowing never to make the mistake of granting a thunderstorm permission sneak up on us AND granting them, that is each and every one of them from then on, the respect they deserve (emphasis added).

Doug and Steve continued to bail, but their ardor was less as we steered toward the shore and home, the boat resting in the sand in the shallows.  We pulled her up as high as we could, stretching the anchor line as far up the beach as it would reach.

We were soaked and exhausted and related our story to our parents as one voice.  We agreed not to say anything about going to Placid Point or that we delayed in donning our life jackets.  Other than that, everything was fair game for story fodder and still is. We sealed the pact in worm blood.

Visit Sacandage Lake: 

William L. Gills aka Bos'n Bill is the author of the book, Lubber's Log published by Llumina Press; a boating primer and adventure story about a couples experiences in moving up to a bigger boat.  You can visit his website here.


  1. Helpful info. Fortunate me I discovered your web site accidentally, and I'm shocked why this coincidence did not
    happened in advance! I bookmarked it.

    Review my page ... beauty organizers

  2. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but
    after I clicked submit my comment didn't show up.
    Grrrr... well I'm not writing all that over again.
    Anyhow, just wanted to say superb blog!

    Also visit my page - Website/Blog (

  3. I'm not sure where you're getting your information, but great
    topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more
    or understanding more. Thanks for great information I was looking for this info for my mission.

    Here is my web site Power IGF increases lean muscle mass (