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 Relaxing Canoe Outing Turns into Rescue Mission

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said, in hindsight, “It seemed like a good idea at the time ...”

That statement could open up a literal book of topics for discussion, and frankly, we just don’t have enough space to go into details about all of them. We’ll just simplify things by saying that life with me has always been an adventure, but there have been times that I would have preferred hanging out with someone else.

Right up front we’ll just get this out of the way: If there’s anyone out there missing a 10-foot plastic Bassmaster boat, equipped with wiring for a fish finder and trolling motor, side panels for fishing poles and makeshift live well, state tag number IN8303BA, my son and I found it.

It’s kind of a long story, and it actually begins a couple of weeks ago when my son, Richard, and I decided to go canoeing down the Big Blue River from Knightstown to Carthage. It’s a trek I’ve made literally hundreds of times.

Despite warnings from my mother that we might get caught it a storm, we went anyway. The word “might” is the key, because it’s not definitive enough to warrant special attention.

We were caught in a violent thunderstorm that deposited more than two inches of rain in less than 20 minutes. We took cover under a cluster of trees and stood there for 15 minutes getting drenched while lightning struck less than 100 yards away.

We ported and dragged the canoe (well, he dragged the canoe, I’m old) more than 100 yards across a field to the Carthage Pike near the old cemetery. In the process of crossing the field we were greeted by roughly 37 gazillion mosquitoes. They all agreed that we tasted pretty good.

Because the trip was shortened by the storm, Richard and I didn’t get our fishing and canoeing fix, and therefore had to try again Sunday.

Mom assured me there would be no storm. A lot of you know her as a major sports fanatic, but few are aware that she’s also a talented meteorologist.

When we prepared to launch the canoe, I noticed that Blue River was well above normal stages, and possibly higher than it had ever been on any previous canoeing trip I’ve taken.

I knew right away that this outing could be dangerous. I mentioned that to Richard, and his response was “Cool.”

He’s an ASE certified mechanic, currently in HVAC schooling, a member of the local volunteer fire department, and an intelligent all-around good guy, but absolutely a lousy front man in a canoe.

Off we went, getting little fishing done because the water was just too fast and maneuvering the canoe around all of the debris was an effort. There were frequent log jams, but plenty of wildlife to observe.

Then we found it: A 10-foot-long plastic Bassmaster boat, appearing in great condition and resting against a log jam. It was equipped with wiring for a trolling motor and fish finder, had side panels for fishing poles and a live well or built-in cooler. We had hit the lottery.

It was also half-full of water and weighed several hundred pounds. The boat was caught in an extremely strong current at the log jam, and we had trouble just maneuvering our way there.

Acting on an absolutely brilliant idea that we had come up with at the same time, Richard and I tied the boat to our canoe and began towing it down the river. The plan was to find a spot to port and empty the water, and then continue downstream.

It turns out Mother Nature had a different idea.

The first problem was the boat we were towing out-weighed the one we were paddling. Then we hit another log jam with a powerful undercurrent, and we were in trouble.

Problem three arose when we both found humor in our original moronic idea. It’s hard to get yourself out of a life-threatening situation when you are laughing hysterically.

The water was trying to suck our canoe under a fallen tree, the boat was attempting to sink, and, I’m not making this up, buzzards were circling overhead. We were laughing, but not for long.

We managed somehow to get around the log jam and then headed to “the waterfall”, which is familiar to anyone who has ever canoed from Knightstown to Carthage.

Just before the Walnut Ridge Road bridge there is a significant drop-off – not exactly a falls – but an adventure nonetheless. When the water level is high, the situation can become kind of dangerous.

It can also become interesting when you are in a plastic canoe and trying to tow 500 pounds of boat and water.

The river was absolutely boiling and furious. The adrenalin rush was incredible. But we weren’t in control of the canoe, let alone the boat.

In a maneuver that at the time seemed stupid and in hindsight was really stupid, Richard jumped from the canoe to the boat. His plan was to keep us from going over the falls sideways. It probably would have been a better plan had he taken a paddle with him, but that’s hindsight, too.

I tried to throw him a lifejacket. It had good football spiral, but wasn’t anywhere near his location.

At the last second, Richard leapt from the boat onto the rocky ledge, and the boat went barreling over the rapids, filling up the rest of the way with water, and then getting sucked back in by the undercurrent. I managed to maneuver the canoe around to pick Richard up, and we struggled feverishly to drag the boat to a sand bar.

Standing triumphantly over our catch, we rested for a few minutes, and then turned the vessel over to drain the water.

That’s when we spotted the eight-inch hole in the bottom of the boat.

So, to whoever is missing a boat, IN8303BA, as of Sunday evening it was on a sandbar roughly 50 yards north of the Walnut Ridge Road bridge.

Of course, the valuable lesson learned from all of this is, when fishing in muddy and murky river conditions, live bait is the only way to go.


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