The following story is true.
Only the names, places and events have been changed*
*Anchorman, The True Story of Ron Burgandy – 2004
OK, maybe just the name, but even that shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.
“Hop in!” I urged to Manu, as the 22’ Willie slowly approached the end of the dock.
It was just before sunrise at Chinook Landing at the end of August, and the ramp conditions were nothing short of zoo-like. Rigs were endlessly backed up, all 8 lanes were in full use, boats sat end to end along the docks and in the basin waiting for the rig drivers to park or to finish outfitting, the parking lot was filling quickly, and the sight and smell of 2-cycle permeated the pre-dawn haze.
Dogs were barking and so were Captains.
“Hey, you better get your lights workin’. The Sheriff’s right outside,” I heard someone call out to a dark boat. “Hey!” I heard just before THUNK, coming from across the basin, as someone decided bumper boating was the order of the morning. “Move! Dangit!” came from yet another boater who could not get off his trailer, due to the docks and idling boats leaving no open water.
Oh, it was going to be a special morning. I could just feel it.
I had the big sled in the middle of the basin, idling the 200 Horse Black Max jet and warming the kicker, mildly amused by all the falderal. Formerly and Maxine the Wonder Dog were already aboard as we waited impatiently for Manu to return from parking the truck and trailer. When his ever-more portly silhouette appeared at the top of the ramp, it was time to move.
Starting the big motor had been necessary to perform the expert maneuver of backing off the trailer and out past the docks without bumping into the numerous sleds, runabouts and even a few hardy ski boats that were tied to each side. I was rather proud of myself with the able and deft touch of applying power and reverse steerage to get out of that tight spot. It is something we always try to do – get on and off the ramp and not tie up a dock any longer than possible.
In retrospect, however, I probably should have shut the big boy down as we approached the end of the dock for the pickup. As any of you who handle jet sleds in general, and especially big ones, knows, trying to control the boat at very slow speeds with jet power is a challenge. Because water is always coming out the jet, even in neutral, there is always some degree of thrust, whether forward or reverse. And the Willie, well, - don’t get me wrong, I love it – is akin to driving a big caddie as opposed to the responsiveness that smaller sleds provide. It is great on the open road (water), but driving the thing around tight parking lots is tough.
Whatever. In any case, I put the big hoss in gear and slowly idled up somewhat parallel to the end of the dock. Imagine the sled forming the top of a “T” as I made the command to Manu.
What happened next, however, could not have been scripted. In the darkness, he apparently felt the need to steady his entry into the boat by crouching and placing his hands along the rail instead of just hopping in as I expected.
I was looking off to port at another boat that was approaching entirely too fast, and did not even notice what Manu had done until Formerly started giggling. When I turned my head, I saw the source of the amusement. Manu was wearing sandals, and both of the fronts of the sandals had lodged vertically between the end of the dock and the last board. The boat was still in gear and idling slowly out and away, and as it did so, Manu was morphing from an accordion shape to one much more elongated.
In fact, though I immediately hit reverse with the jet, the effect was the boat stopped moving forward, but continued to move away from the dock. This caused Manu to extend further and further on an ever more horizontal plane, with knuckles turning white at the rail and feet stuck on the dock. He actually started looking pretty skinny for himself with all the stretching. I can’t honestly recall exactly what he was saying, but it was more of a whimper or whine than a curse, at least as the predicament continued to unfold. This all happened in extremely slow-motion.
I couldn’t really do anything but stay on the motor, and Formerly couldn’t really either, seeing as how he was now practically convulsing from laughter and all.
Oh, yeah, you know what is happening here, doncha?
Except, you see, Maxine the Wonder Dog had been intrigued all morning long by all the dogs. She, like many dogs, is naturally curious, and often tries to hop out of the boat when it is at the dock. That is one of the reasons I tend not to dock while she is aboard.
So, seeing the available bridge, Maxine did the normal dog thing and walked right across Manu’s back to the dock. Manu was screeching something about not being able to hold on any longer. But then, of course, I had to order her back aboard the boat, and she dutifully walked right back. By now, Formerly was completely convulsing from laughter, and I was doing my best to suppress. Manu was now fully convulsing himself, and the washboard effect of will losing to ever weakening strength meant the end was near.
Manu finally gave up the notion he was ever going to get out of the jamb and instead got out of his sandals. Since he was wearing his auto-inflatable PFD, we were never concerned about him actually drowning, anyway. As he hit the water in full flop, he kind of bounced right up back out of it. Arms and legs flailing, Formerly and I quickly plucked him aboard. He kind of shrank up like a potato bug and pouted at first. The water was warm and so was the morning air, so as we slowly motored out to the big C., he took his sweats off and sat down in his underwear and Tee-shirt.
He was wearing a fanny-pack, and we thought the contents, which included his wallet and cell phone, might have been damaged or worse. Formerly apologized profusely for not unsnapping it from his waist before he went in the drink. As it turned out though, he was wearing it on his fanny, and his Bruce-Lee type bounce off the water with the inflatable assist prevented any serious damage from occurring.
As the day continued, the sun rose and the temps did too. He was never actually blue from cold, though I wasn’t sure if the shivering early on was from cold or fury. He never really said anything, in spite of occasional and spontaneous chortles coming from one of us. He finally managed a smile or two as the morning progressed. Eventually, even his sweats dried out.
He even caught an URB Chinook that day, so all’s well that ended well. When we got back, I put the leash on Max and let him off carefully at the dock. I had not considered where the keys to the rig were during all the events of the morning, but fortunately he had put them too in the fanny pack. I was just a tad concerned that he might just decide to drive home and leave us to fend for ourselves. However, he did return to the ramp, and following an expert drive onto the trailer, we were shortly thereafter on our way.
He made me promise never to tell anybody about this, so I won’t.