Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Upper Peninsula's First Wooden Boat Submarine Commander or how I spent my summer vacation

Usually I write a long and detailed travelogue at the end of the summer. I highlight some of the kids' more entertaining comments and chuckle with all my friends (don't think I've ever done a travelogue here on the blog before) over the silly mishaps that seem to dog our vacations. Last year I didn't even write any, despite having our usual quota of chaos. This year, because I wanted to make up for last year's complete lack of entertainment value, I have outdone myself and you all therefore get a mid-summer travelogue. I'm just sure you can hardly contain yourselves! Of course, if you read my post An apology you already know the culmination of the disasters but here's the longer version for your reading enjoyment.

Our original plan, upon leaving the sunny southland for the unseasonably chilly north, was that we would all drive together. This never happens. Every year I suspect that D. will find a reason to avoid the hours and hours and hours of enforced family closeness in the car on our way to vacay-land. But this year he swore he was coming with us. However, the week before we left, a business meeting mysteriously popped up. Am I surprised? Nope. But I am such a pro by now that even the threat of 2 days (16 hours) trapped in the car with only the dog, my offspring, and the annoying music on their Nintendo DS's doesn't faze me. I will say I thought it rather ridiculous (and costly) to drive up in a caravan of two but whatever. And of course, since the snacks and the Harry Potter CD's (we're prepping for the new movie) were in my car, so were all the short people. The day we left, I ran R. to her dance rehearsal and then ran around like a chicken with her head cut off taking care of all the last minute things that needed to be done before we pulled out. D. sat at home, hunched over his laptop, muttering about missing so many days of work. I gave him one task: to take out the trash before we left. We picked R. up at dance mid-day and headed out. Amazingly enough, especially if you know our usual track record, we made it to Columbus and our friends' house without incident. Karma was apparently saving up for the following day!

Not long into our second day of driving, the notoriously carsick kid mewed pitifully that her tummy hurt. Given that we were trapped in the left lane of a highway, barreling past lumbering semi-trucks, on a holiday weekend, pulling over was not really an option. Luckily, getting a bit older has enabled her to learn some coping techniques and so the contents of her stomach stayed put until we could pull over, gas up, and grab lunch. With lunch (always to go when driving hundreds of miles, incidentally) in hand we hopped back in the car and I handed R. the magic dramamine pill to slug down. She's not very good at swallowing pills and since I hadn't given it to her in a spoonful of applesauce, she got creative and decided to tuck it into her hamburger (a food she's not particularly fond of anyway). Now we adults know how ghastly pills can taste when inadvertantly chewed, but apparently 10 year old girls do not have that knowledge base. So she blithely bit into the burger, chewed a second or two, and promptly vomited into the bag I'd thrown at her earlier when her tummy hurt. Argh! But not only can she practice coping techniques, her aim is much better now that she's older and so no upholstery or contents of the car were sacrificed to the vagaries of rampant motion sickness. She managed to choke down a second pill and we pressed on. (How to tell you are completely jaded and tired of your trip? Don't even offer to stop when your kid yaks. Mom of the year, that's me.)

So we arrived at the dock, unloaded the car, and happily piled into the boat my parents had left there for us. When I get in a boat, I am in my happy place, like a dog hanging its head out the window experiencing sheer joy. We headed down the channel and I soaked it all in. Apparently the boat was soaking it all in too. My kids pulled me out of my reverie by shouting that water was coming in. I told then to turn on the bilge pump and kept going. Hearing some panic in their voices, I turned around and saw water to their ankles. I hollered at them to turn on the bilge as I watched the water continue to pour in. The bilge was shorted out. I told D. to call my mom and tell her we needed help. He proceeded to get on his cell and tell her that we were half way to the cottage, in the middle of Musky Bay, and were sinking. Then he hung up.

Meanwhile, the water in the boat was continuing to rise and bits of luggage started sloshing and floating about. The kids were standing on the back seat and T. was in full panic mode, screaming that we were all going to drown. I calmly told him that no one was going to drown and that that was why we make them wear life jackets. Despite being calm for him, I was a little panicky for me at this point. The boat was clearly going down, my youngest child was screaming like a banshee and the fishermen who were fewer than 100 yards away just continued to calmly cast their lines. So I made the decision to head for the nearest point, despite knowing that it is a rocky point, not a nice sandy place to beach a boat.

Somehow we made it to the point and I scraped the snot out of the bottom of the boat, finally ending up in water to my waist and up to the gunwales. My mom had gotten on the phone and called everyone she could think of so while W. and R. slid over the side of the boat to squelch their way around the point to fetch help from that quarter, one of my parents' friends arrived in his little rubber Zodiac. It was the perfect boat since he could actually get into where we were without too much danger of hitting the rocks. Of course, before he arrived, T., still sobbing but no longer convinced he was going to drown, had climbed from the backseat of the boat onto the gunwales, desperately clutching his bunnies and blankie. When I suggested he follow his brother and sister into the chilly water, he announced, "I'll wait to be rescued." He didn't give a rip about his siblings, his parents, or his dog's well-being but by golly bunnies and blankie were going to be rescued!

The dog (also wearing a lifejacket) had climbed onto the bow of the boat just behind the windshield (seems like it should be called something distinct and different from the bow but dashboard seems more a car thing) and was shivering there. She was the first warm body rescued from our final resting place. D. had climbed out onto the bow of the boat himself, fussing like a girl about keeping his laptop dry, nevermind everything else in the boat that was swirling around in the waves or sitting sunkenly lumped together two and a half feet under water.

Once all of our luggage was removed, dripping, from the boat, the kids and I were dropped off at the cottage, leaving D. and my dad to deal with the boat. For those interested, it is/was a 1950's wooden Cruisers. It looks similar to this boat which can be found at Lady Ben Classic Wooden Boats. Please note that this was not the boat we were in (although I am highly entertained by the commentary offered by this boat's seller that the boat takes on water, especially given my own exploits). Luggage that is heavy before a dunking is insanely heavy after a full on drowning and it took us the better part of an hour to lug everything up the hill to the cottage and to start unpacking. While we hauled bags with water still pouring out of them up the hill, the dog decided to offer her contribution to the catastrophe. She had a raging case of nervous diarrhea right smack in the middle of the walkway. Luggage hauling was interrupted in order to fling said smears into the bushes as I cursed under my breath like Yosemite Sam. Then back to the luggage, hoping against hope I'd gotten the poop before anyone stepped in it.

Dripping clothes had to dumped, load after load after load, into the dryer. The things we hung on the clothes line took two and a half days to completely dry out. And nothing we had was even just damp so we wandered around, leaking a bit, until pajamas were dry enough to change into. All the electronics on the boat, including but not limited to my camera and two lenses, iPod, GPS unit, and a Nintendo DS are all completely waterlogged and presumed dead. You can actually see the water sloshing around inside the lenses and the camera body. ::sigh:: And insurance won't cover anything. Apparently losing possessions via sinking a boat is not covered by our homeowner's policy. Since it wasn't intentional and certainly wasn't an act of God, I'd really like to know why not but the answer just seems to be that it isn't covered.

Every year I take scad loads of books on vacation with me. And every year as my family helps me unload on the island, someone makes a crack about me trying to sink the island with all those books. This year I took between 75-80 books. And instead of merely *trying* to sink the island, I actually *did* sink the boat. So I guess the lesson is to aim lower and you'll achieve your goals. Okay, not really, but have you ever tried to dry out books that have taken an unintentional dunking? The covers are curling up into the strangest of shapes and the pages are sticking together unpleasantly. I'd take a picture to show you but oops, the camera accompanied them to Davy Jones' locker. And it goes without saying that I am one of those anal retentive souls who cherishes her books and keeps them in pristine condition at all times. ::sigh:: I'm going to have to put them all on their own set of shelves and label it the mermaid library or something. They were all the books I was going to read (and then some) this summer, including the books I'd committed to reviewing over the next few weeks. Yeah. I guess translucent pages would help the speed reading since I can now read three pages at the same time.

But pre-occupied by sinking the boat as I was and wondering if I had caused it somehow, there was more waiting for me. First though, the official diagnosis on the boat. Apparently a board along the keel had slipped out so the faster the boat went, the faster this board peeled backwards, sending water rushing into the boat. The only way to slow down the gush leak would have been to throw the boat in reverse. Obviously this is a bit of an unusual choice for combatting a sinking boat and clearly didn't occur to me but so it goes. So it wasn't anything I did. Insert Hallelujah chorus. I did snap off said board when I beached the boat, but other than that, I only scraped some paint from the bottom. So I was left feeling only slightly guilty, given that it was my parents' boat, not ours, and it sank on my watch. I'm also still pondering the irony that the only thing on the boat that didn't get wet was T.'s swim suit. It was completely bone dry. Everything else, submerged and dripping. What are the odds?

The following day when we headed into town to see the Fourth of July parade, W. stepped cautiously into the boat and said, "I guess things can be unpredictable on a lake." Well, that's quite the understatement! I got back on the horse that threw me and drove a boat to the mainland. Once there, I realized that the vomit-filled bag was still in my car. Since R. had thrown a few things away at the gas station where we stopped for gas, I had naturally assumed that the nasty bag was one of the things she chucked. They always say that when you assume something, it just makes an ass out of you and me. And boy howdy does day old vomit that has festered in the sun in a closed car smell badly. So charmer that I am, I shifted it over to my sister's car. (We were taking her car into town where it could be tossed but it was also a bit of payback for me being pulled away from dealing with our soaking belongings to put the crib together for my newest nephew, despite there being three other quasi-capable and highly educated adults banging around in the new cottage who weren't needed to try and salvage our stuff.)

Gag inducing stuff disposed of, the next couple of days were fine and started to get back to some semblance of normal. Since the boat I sank (now being repaired at the boat yard) was the biggest one we have, we needed something else capable of holding as many people as possible (my family of five, my sister's family of five, my parents, and my grandmother) instead of making so many trips in the two small boats. Luckily we have a great family friend who sells boats. And she happened to have one that would fit the bill, relatively inexpensively. Unluckily, its name is Wet Dream. There is nothing like explaining to your two pre-teens and your 7 year old exactly why the name cannot stay if we buy the boat. Sex education via maritime disaster, as if they hadn't been traumatized enough going down with the ship!

Yesterday R. and I drove down to Detroit, hopping on a plane home this morning. She has dance rehearsals and Nationals coming up in the next two weeks. We left the boys up north so I won't have to listen to them whine about watching days worth of dancing. R. and I will fly back up to Detroit and get a second try at a vomit free handful of hours once the competition is over. In the meantime, I brought a bunch of my books home in hopes that they'd dry quicker here in the heat. And their covers are curling much faster here than up north. 40 or so soggy books do not make for light carry-on baggage and I think the poor taxi driver got a hernia when he took the bags from from me. The camera and lenses will go into the shop to see if they can be salvaged for a reasonable amount of money. As for the rest of the summer, well, there won't be any pictures this year but on the plus side, I have a whole slew of things I can ask Santa for this Christmas. I'm hoping he'll think I've been punished enough since I'm generally not good enough to deserve such bounty!

Oh, and remember that I gave D. one measly task to complete before we pulled out of here? Yep. He didn't take out the trash so walking into the house was like deja vu smell-wise. I'm not sure which is worse, old vomit or advanced rot and decomposition (there was a chicken carcass in there among other things). What a lucky girl I am! Here's hoping the rest of our summer and continued vacation will be significantly less eventful than the first half!


  1. What a story! Sounds like Murphy's Law hit you full force. Hopefully the rest of the summer won't be as eventful.

  2. OMGosh - I'm laughing so hard -I swear that milk came out of my nose (and I haven't been drinking any'-). You couldn't make up anything funnier than this, so it must all be true!

    Enjoyed every single word.

    PS - a great odor absorber for a stinky car...throw in several of those coffee packets that come encase in their own filter. They work wonders! A friends husband dumped a gallon of mill in the back of her car, and happened to forget all about it. That milked baked in her car for three days in the sweltering Florida summer heat. The stench was unbelievable. She threw 3 or 4 of those coffee "packets" on the floor where the milk had been spilled (after we scrubbed the carpeting) and they worked wonders! Cheap and effective - except for several days, we were craving bacon and eggs every time we got into her car;-)

  3. All I can say is that I have learned quite a few lessons from your 'vacation' and I have decided to never go on a boat again with any possessions again.

  4. Kristen if you ever write a book I will stand in line to read buy it. This was so funny to read I had to put my yogurt down before I spewed it. Oh my heavens, I keep laughing at the irony of so many things; the trash not going out, the swim suit being the only dry thing on the boat, the 80 wet books taking the boat down.
    You might have out done yourself with this vacation. It will certainly be a hard act to follow.

  5. Kristen your travelogues always leave me in wonderment ans stitches! This was the best one yet!

  6. It's a good thing you have a sense of humor, Kristen. What a nightmare that must have been. I am glad no one was hurt. And I do hope the rest of your vacation goes much better. :-)


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