Did you ever have one of those light bulb moments? When all of the little independent thoughts finally align and out of it comes a common theme or idea. Such a moment occurred for me this morning as I busily got ready for work. Ironically this came at a opportune moment and fell in line with what I planned on posting today. I will tell you more about the idea that came to me at the end of this post so let me get right to my story for the day.
We had a boat when I was growing up. It was a 21ft “Classic” with a 115hp Mercruiser engine. It sat beside the house under the chinaberry tree because there wasn’t room in our garage with all of Dad’s “treasures” in there. Because of this, it usually took a day of cleaning to get it ready to use. We only used it a few times a year and more time was spent cleaning and repairing it than fishing in it. If you are a boat owner, you know that the worst thing you can do to a boat is not use it. Ours was no exception. It was prone to breaking down.
When we did use it, the usual destination was out in the ocean. We never went alone though because of the possibility of breaking down. We always went with several of my Dad’s friends who also had boats. There was safety in numbers he would say and if one boat broke down someone else could get that person home. That “person” was usually us and I can remember being towed home on more than one occasion.
This one particular trip sticks in my memory because it was different than the others. It was a calm morning without a bit of wind. We headed out on the long drive to the inlet with boat in tow. The heavy boat caused Dad’s Bronco to sway and jerk as we drove through the dark streets. At 5 am, there was no traffic on the road other than a few dedicated fishermen and Dad would curse each time we caught a red light and go over his reasoning of why he hated traffic lights when there was no traffic. We arrived at the boat landing still in the dark and began the difficult process of unloading the boat.
Dad didn’t trust the emergency brake on his Bronco with good reason because it had let us down in the past so I placed a large block of wood behind one of the tires. Then we all assembled at the boat and pushed with all our might and got the boat off the trailer. There were three friends that went with us that day and they arrived and launched their boats as well. The inlet was just around the bend and soon we were at the sea buoy about to head out.
I had never seen the ocean as calm as it was on that day. There was still no wind at all and the surface of the ocean looked like a mirror. There was however a thick fog hanging just off shore and it was moving in slowly and getting thicker by the minute. My father and his friends discussed the fog and calm and were deciding where they wanted to try going. Usually we stayed in close to shore, only venturing out less than 10 miles. At that distance, on a clear day, we could still see shore which was comforting because back in those days we only had a compass and a chart to navigate with. There were no GPS’ or cell phones and we couldn’t afford a radar or depth finder . These days no one would dare venture out in the ocean with only a compass and a chart.
Based on the sea state, my father and his friends decided to head out to a place called “The Party Grounds”. I had heard of it but never been there myself. I was excited but a little frightened as well since it was 25 miles off shore and I had never been that far out. The Party Grounds was a “hot” fishing spot where according to the stories, everyone caught fish. It was deeper than where we usually fished so we were expecting to catch Red Snapper and Grouper in addition to your usual Black Sea Bass.
We headed out at full speed. It was really spooky since we were basically running blind in the fog. I don’t know how fast we were going because we also had no speedometer on any of the boats. We simply went by the compass heading and hoped that the fog would lift before we got to the fishing spot. After a long time, somewhat over an hour, the fog did lift. The ocean was still glassy and way up ahead, I spied a small flag attached to a buoy. Right on target I thought and we headed for the flag and began to fish.
The first thing I noticed was that it was much deeper than I expected. Dad said that was to be expected at this reef but after he dropped his line, he said the same thing. We guessed it was about 100 ft deep but our chart said that it was supposed to be around 70 ft at The Party Grounds. And where were the other boats I kept asking. Dad said that the fog probably kept them inshore but he expected to see some on their way out soon. We caught a few fish but nothing like I expected. Around 11 we decided to head in because we knew that it would be a long ride back. The wind was picking up too and we wanted to get in get in before it got rough. There were still only the 4 of us fishing at this spot.
It was still calm enough to go fast so we went in at full throttle. After about 30 minutes of driving, up ahead there appeared a multitude of boats. There must have been 50 of them fishing in one particular area. As we got closer, we noticed that there were several buoys in the area marked with a number that corresponded to The Party Grounds. The fog was so thick when we were heading out that we crossed right over the reef without seeing the buoys. We were lost without even knowing it. Looking at the chart, there was another reef at 35 miles and this must have been where we ended up.
It is easy to get lost when driving in the fog. Without a final destination in sight we often miss our mark and end up someplace that we don’t expect. I drove around in the fog for a long time but now I can see my final destination and will keep it in sight. My advice is this: Stay out of the fog. Once you are engulfed by the fog it is hard to find your way out. Keep in the light and focus on your future and where you want to go. If you find that things are getting foggy for you, stop and wait for the fog to lift. I now carry my cell phone, a radio, and two GPS’ in addition to a compass when I go out in the ocean. I also have a dept finder so I can see what is below me. If I get lost in the fog on my lifelong journey, I have The Bible and the word of God to direct me. I am focusing on my final destination. Have I gotten soft or just smarter? What do you think?
Ok now for my light bulb idea. I have been trying to work on my book and keep getting distracted. I have decided to take some of what I have been writing on this blog and expand it a little to go into my book. These stories of my childhood will be chapters in my book so you are getting an early glimpse of my book by reading these stories. There will be some modifications for the final project but the theme will be the same: Life with my Father. So what do you think?
Have a great day (if there is any left after reading this long post)