The Last Word from the Lake: Please Stop Renting Me Boats

I am not, by nature, a boater. I love being on boats, especially when they’re owned and driven by people other than myself. When you move to the lake the universal question people ask you is: “Are you getting a boat?” Friends, my answer is a simple “no”. If pressed, I explain that my wife and I don’t even like driving cars and us getting behind the wheel of a boat is a recipe for divorce.

We like the idea of boats, and occasionally, we suffer enough amnesia around how much we both dislike driving boats to go ahead and rent one. If the boat rental company offered me a flag to affix to my boat that said, “Steer Clear, this is a Rental Boat and Don’t Want to Get Close to Other Boats,” I would accept it and fly it high when we got underway.

I do OK on open water. I am cautious to the extreme, giving other boat drivers wide lanes of space, steering well clear of docks, and staying far from marked hazards. I’m also cautious to the extreme when docking, but that’s still the part that gets me most anxious.

Why is it that every person on the boat stands up when you’re trying to dock? “I can’t see, sit down!” you shout to them, but instead they all run to the front of the boat. If you say, “Frank, keep your hands in the boat, I don’t want them crushed.” What will Frank do? Friends, Frank will reach over and try to catch the 3,000-pound boat with his hand.

I think it’s the anxiety of doing damage to the boat while docking it or damaging someone’s dock. The anxiety is exponentially compounded when you’re trying to pull into a slip at a restaurant and everyone sitting outside on the patio is watching you dock your boat, secretly hoping to get a bit of a show.

One such time, when our collective memory of our boat driving nightmares had faded, we rented a boat with family in town. A storm kicked up, but the rain passed, and it was mostly just wind, so we picked up the boat, got the family aboard, and drove through waves crashing over our pontoons for about an hour before driving over to Toucans for lunch.

There were no other boats at the dock, probably because the four flags at the end of the Toucans dock were pinned back in the howling wind. I left the boat in neutral, and the wind pushed us in sideways. My nephew stood up and walked over to me, because whenever you try to dock the boat, everyone must stand up no matter how many times you ask them not to. “Uncle Rocky,” he said, “just let the wind push us in all the way and then gun it and shoot right into one of the slips.” As we drifted past the $200k surfboats and Bentley-esqe Cobalts tied up at the next dock, I made an executive decision and turned the boat away from the dock and announced that we would make different plans for lunch.

In the ensuing chaos of arguing and shouted advice, I ran over a buoy. Later, when I told my friend, Nate, this story and pointed out the buoy to him, he said, “I thought it would have been a much smaller buoy.” I pointed out to him that the wind was so strong it had pushed the buoy on its side, and he said, “Still, that buoy is huge.” That is why, folks, that we avoid boats.


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