May 5, 2014 Share

Big Wind, Bad Deal

Many years ago, my parents scraped enough money together to buy a tiny, two-bedroom cabin on a clear lake noted for big panfish and bass. In a former life, the cabin was part on an old resort and rented by the week. It was built to close to the lake (just 10 feet) that when you looked out the front windows all you saw was water.

Because the shoreline in front of the cabin was eroding badly, the previous owner had built a retaining wall to preserve as much of his property as possible. Even when water was low, it lapped the bottom of the retaining wall, and when the water it was high it came up to near the top of the wall. On big wind days, waves would crash off the wall and send spray onto the cabin. Most of the time this wasn’t a big deal, but on a family vacation trip 30 years ago that wasn’t the case.

It was a stormy week, with nightly thunderstorms so loud at times that sleep was impossible until they passed. But, the one that hit around 2:30 am on day 5 of our vacation was anything but ordinary. I don’t recall what the wind speeds were or how much rain we got. All I remember is wind screaming so loudly that it was almost human-like. At the time, we assumed we were in the midst of a tornado. There was also a mysterious metallic crashing sound every few moments.

“The boat must have ripped free of the dock!,” my dad yelled as he rushed to the window, and then to the front door. The wind ripped it free of his hand when he attempted to open it. Seconds later a giant wave washed through and flooded the entire cabin. My dad responded by slamming the door shut just moments before a second wave hit.

With an intense look in his eyes he informed us that our boat, a 16-foot aluminum model with an 18-horsepower outboard, had broken its mooring ropes and was smashing against the concrete retaining wall with each wave. We all rushed outside to save it, but it was filled with water and so heavy that even with six of us trying to get it off the wall it was clearly a mission impossible. So we headed back to the protection of the cabin to wait out the storm, tortured by the sounds of our boat being destroyed.

At dawn, we found the boat badly damaged, with rivets blown out and dents so large the boat didn’t look seaworthy. Incredibly, the outboard was undamaged.

Over the next couple days we pounded out the dents replaced the missing rivets and doused the leaking seams with a sealant that kept the boat afloat well enough that bailing wasn’t required very often. Two day later the boat lead us to a limit of walleyes.

I have never told this story to my neighbor, and likely never will. You see, on Friday a storm passed through here and while it was nothing like that storm many years ago, it packed gusts to 40 MPH that sent big waves crashing ashore. Dave, a neighbor of mine, had his boat well tied to his dock and as such it may have survived the heavy waves if only he had tied bow-out instead of the opposite.

About mid-afternoon a wave crested over the transom and fill the cockpit areas. The flooded boat wallowed low, opening the door for a second wave to crash over. The boat was soon filled with water and resting on the bottom of the lake. The good news is, his outboard survived the ordeal with no damage, but the boat is a different story. His gas tank is now filled with contaminated fuel and his bilge area is loaded with water and sand, as are his livewells and storage areas.

His dealer is already set to repair the boat which is good, the crappies are biting…!–Steve