I have a boat. Her name is Stella. Stella was my maternal grandmother’s name. I no longer recall why I named a boat after her. Rumor is little grandma was pretty tough. She had a mean fast ball but mostly my memories are of her lamenting the fact that she was still alive. The last few years my dad would take me over to visit mid-week and we’d find her sitting in the dim dining room with her hands clasped begging for the lord to end her misery. I must have been thinking of earlier days when I thought of christening my boat in her honor. Stella is also a fun name to yell and use regularly. See A Streetcar Named Desire. Stella has been in storage for nine years. She’s made four trips down the Grand Canyon (I went once without her and it was not a good trip). Together we’ve covered thousands of river miles and uncountable rapids. This 15′ Aire Puma cataraft is the bomb. I love this boat. I am captain on this boat.
This weekend we took Stella out of storage and after a test of her air holding capacity we took her for an overnight trip on the Dearborn River. Burt’s daughter and family friend McKenzie joined us. The weather was hot, the water high, and the grass plentiful. It’s a summer of lushness we haven’t seen in many years. Many people had the same idea but it wasn’t a problem. We launched very late due to a classic Mittelstadt mis-communication. People were waiting for each other at different bridges. There was no cell service. It all worked out. All the other boaters were gone and we enjoyed a calm evening float in solitude.
Olive and Elvis came along, too. They both has mishaps. Elvis tangled himself in the ours and was knocked from the boat. Olive jumped off once and was left behind on shore. I cat-grabbed Elvis and drug his sogginess into the boat. It was a tough lift. We made Olive swim for us. That would have been light work. That’s the difference between an accident and an intentional screw up. People are happy to help when you make a mistake but when you’re purposely rude people aren’t as amiable. Olive knows not to leave a vehicle without permission.
It was a perfect overnight outing, nineteen river miles and a sleep under the stars, family and friends with fresh trout on the side. I felt a little decrepit since it had been 9 years without rowing and my technique was sloppy. Stella took a few hits on the nose but it didn’t matter. Today I am a happy sore.
The only ugliness on this trip was an incident at the take-out that I feel compelled to share. I hesitate because I’m not sure I’ll capture the nuance of the interaction and I don’t want to complain just for the sake of complaining. Here goes:
Burt left the truck at a really steep take-out and the Missouri was flowing high so I suggested he get out and drive down to the next take-out while we three girls float on in our two rafts. The Mid-Canon take out normally has a wide beach and ample room for trucks and trailers and the scores of holiday boaters. We three ladies arrived at the campground just upstream of the designated take-out. I paused there to suss out the situation. In times past I’ve used the campground for a less crowded access point. There were no cars and we quickly deduced the campground must be closed due to the recent high water. We could see standing water in the road. We moved onward.
It is very important not to pass your take-out spot. Logistics become nightmarish if you miss the take out. So we crept down the shore and hugged the willows looking for a take-out I had not seen in 10 years. It should be obvious. Indeed, it was obvious. There was a large parking lot and a boat in the eddy. In the boat was a man. We said hello. He did not respond. I looked around and thought, “Wow, this place is empty. I wonder where everybody is?” I looked at the guy in his boat. It was empty of gear. He was obviously waiting to be picked up. This must be the spot. We started de-rigging our boats. I saw the guy smirking. I thought, “Is this not the spot? Wouldn’t he tell us if he knew this wasn’t the take-out?” Everything was off my boat and the lasses were about to start deflating theirs. Just as I was about to disassemble Stella Burt came running up. He was yelling. “Stop, stop, stop. This isn’t the take-out.” I looked at the guy who had been watching us from 10′ away. He smirked and turned away. Jen, McKenzie and I shrugged our shoulders and started reloading the boats. Burt asked the guy and said, “Why didn’t you say something?” The guy averted his eyes. He already knew the entire normal take-out was closed due to road flooding and people were using a makeshift spot just downstream. It was a very crowded spot. He was waiting his turn. Since the dogs were in the truck and it was 90 degrees Burt ran back to the take-out and we finished re-rigging.
We three ignored the man. McKenzie was pushing off their boat when a second man ran up to the other guy and asked us to stop. He said, “Would you please let us go first? Our trailer is in the way down there and I’d like to get our boat down so we can move.” I looked at him and his friend. I was suddenly very, very angry. I said, “I’d feel a lot better about helping you out if your buddy there had been kind enough to tell us that this isn’t the take-out.” AWKWARD silence. Look up awkward and you’ll see Jen, McK, and I staring at these two mouth breathing men. I waved them on since this was a classic time to turn the other cheek. Just then the first man’s wife and very young daughter emerged from the willows. The men pushed off. We waited. Then this silent eye-averting SOB starts screaming at his daughter from the safety of his boat. He hadn’t a word for us and now he’s screaming at his kid. I couldn’t see the mother so I got off my boat to make sure the mother had eyes on the child. She did. I heard the dad make a derogatory remark about his child’s intelligence. I got on my boat and waited in silence.
After about five minutes Jen and McK floated down. I waited a few more minutes. I came in to the tight spot and made a perfect landing. These two men and several other giant friends were there. They all tried to help me. (An aside here, my cataraft cannot be lifted out of the river like a raft. These men would not have known that. But by trying to help me they risked seriously damaging the boat.) I still have some serious verbal defense skills. I said, “Do not touch my boat” and they disappeared. I mean evaporated. They were gone so fast I had to ask my people if they had indeed just tried to drag me and my boat out of the river. Jen told me this morning I was sending out some heavy DO NOT MESS WITH ME VIBES and I scared them all away. Fine by me.
So I asked Burt what he thought would have happened if Burt had been there as captain of Stella and I was away running shuttle. Burt agreed this man would not have ignored Burt’s greeting nor would he have smirked while Burt de-rigged, nor would he have failed to share valuable information with Burt.
So here I am again. I thought I’d be sharing a nice trip report and instead I’m thinking about the ugliness of sexism.