Watercraft woes put bummer in summerFor more than 35 years, the Woster family in Pierre has spent summers on the Missouri River. This year, we missed the Fourth of July weekend, and that wasn’t the half of it. We went Oh-for-July because of mechanical issues. It’s pretty amazing to realize how much of our summer life involves being on the water.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
For more than 35 years, the Woster family in Pierre has spent summers on the Missouri River. This year, we missed the Fourth of July weekend, and that wasn’t the half of it.
We went Oh-for-July because of mechanical issues. It’s pretty amazing to realize how much of our summer life involves being on the water.
The problem that surfaced on Father’s Day weekend took us off the water for what we had every reason to expect would be a short time. We were disappointed that day, sure. We had family with us, we had coolers and sandwiches and tubes and sun screen and towels and bug spray and beach chairs and umbrellas and water toys and snorkeling equipment and more smiles than you see in a Miss Congeniality pageant.
We were on the water all of five minutes. It’s always sad to be returning to the ramp with motor problems. The folks waiting to launch or preparing to dock — and the anglers and pleasure boaters scooting through the water on their way to oodles of fun — seem embarrassed to be on the same water with someone whose BOAT WON’T RUN. They don’t like to look you full in the face. They cast furtive glances from the corners of eyes hidden behind sunglasses or shadowed by the low-pulled bill of a baseball cap or the wide brim of a straw hat.
I used to think they were feeling pity. Now I understand they are being respectful. Hardly a person who has ever owned a boat hasn’t had one problem or another that forced them back to the dock early, sometimes at the back end of a tow rope being pulled at 5 mph by another boater who whose day of pleasure on the river got interrupted by an emergency tow. Most boaters I’ve met are more than happy to help another river rat in trouble. They’ve been there, and they know the helpless feeling of being somewhere up around the back side of Peoria Flats with a motor that won’t turn over and no help in sight.
Boats can be exasperating when they have mechanical trouble. They’re like cars but not like cars. I mean, I can still open the hood of a car and figure out what most of the parts are. I probably don’t have the tools to fit the new stuff, but I have a pretty good idea what I’m seeing. The first time I popped the top from the 65-horsepower Evinrude on the used, 15-foot Pipestone boat that introduced us to Missouri River fun back in 1974, I recognized the spark plugs and not much else.
I popped the cover that day because we were on our first outing alone after buying the boat, we were at Farm Island way down toward where it enters the river, and the engine wouldn’t start. Who’d have figured that? It worked fine when the guy selling it took me for a ride.
Eventually, we learned a safety switch had gone bad. We learned that, though, only after sitting for an hour or so under a cloud of mosquitoes staring at all the wiring harnesses and goofy looking stuff packed into the casing of the Evinrude. When we finally gave up on fixing things, we discovered the boat we’d just bought had no oar, so we used a couple of water skis to paddle our way back toward the Farm Island ramp.
That should have made us renege on the deal and spend summers inside, the way I imagine sensible families do. I guess we were already true boaters, because of all the things we were thinking, that wasn’t one of them. We could think of nothing but who, where, how and when we could get the problem with our boat motor fixed.
That’s how you tell a real Missouri River rat. If there’s a problem with a car or pickup, we’ll ask, “How much is that going to cost?” If there’s a problem with the boat, we ask, “How soon can you fix it?”
So far this summer, the answer has been, “Not soon enough.”