The Last Time the Boat Sailed

And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee,
and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee;
and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious,
and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

— Exodus 33:19


I can still hear that big inboard motor murmur in the sky-blue waters of northern Minnesota: lub-dub-dub-dub-dub. . . .


I can still smell the marine oil. I can feel the warm vinyl seats under my wet swimsuit. I can sense the cool breeze whipping my hair.


We had a ski boat, a 22-foot Mark Twain. She had a powerful engine and seats for eight. She was the best boat on the lake. My dad named her ”NautiNancy.” That was a play on the words “nautical” and “naughty,” combined with my mom’s name.


Quite a boat. She could double-ski and triple-ski us. We even did pyramids – at least, for a few seconds. We skied right off the dock without getting splinters you know where.


That boat taught me what ”sadistic” meant. Dad always drove the boat. I’m sure it got a little boring for him. So sometimes, after skiing you for probably half an hour, Dad liked to drive the boat around and around in circles ’til the waves were tsunami-size. Naturally, you’d fall. He’d make sure you weren’t drowning. And then, as he steered close enough to circled the rope back to you, he’d tease in his “jolly Nazi” imitation: ”Vat are you do-ink in the VATER?”


So many happy memories on that boat. We took all-day cruises, exploring the glacier-cut shores and islands, watching beavers and otters, marveling at eagle’s nests, waterfalls, and what looked like ancient faces cut into the rocks.


I remember laying on the floor of that boat and looking up at the moon, which ’bout filled the sky, the night the first astronaut stepped onto the moon. It seemed close enough for me to hop on, too.


But then many years passed. The boat was nearly 40 years old. After Dad’s death, it received only light use, and had been sitting in drydock.


So one fall, my husband decided to make the 12-hour journey to the lake, bring the boat home, fix it up, and use it again. He called ahead to get the old boat trailer road-worthy. Once there, he rested overnight, checked everything twice on the boat and trailer, and started off in his pickup truck hauling the trailer and boat. Everything was shipshape.


About halfway home, though, on an isolated stretch of Interstate, going about 65 mph, he came to the crest of a hill and crossed a narrow bridge. There was a pretty good dip and hump at the bridge expansion joint. The truck bounced.


Suddenly, the truck swerved violently from side to side.


In the rear-view mirror, my Beloved could see the trailer fish-tailing wildly. He was afraid the truck would flip. So he barely touched the brakes and concentrated on steering straight.


He felt a “bang!” as the trailer hit the truck. He glanced in the left side view mirror and watched — mouth agape — as the trailer jerked away from the pickup, off into the median.


The boat flew off, rotated 180 degrees, and landed on its top, augering into the ground.


It was like watching slow-motion action scenes in a James Bond movie: boats flying in mid-air, sparks shooting around, random stuff exploding outward. . . .


Seems the trailer had come unhitched on that bump. The safety chain wasn’t heavy enough to keep the trailer connected.


The boat will go sailing no more. Unlike James Bond, my Beloved had to tend to cleanup and salvage details after the big crash scene. What was left of NautiNancy sat in an Iowa roadside field awaiting her final destination, which eventually was for a boat parts guy who was happy to get her.


Everyone is saying it’s a miracle my husband wasn’t hurt and it wasn’t any worse. Thank you, Jesus. A wise friend pointed out that maybe God could see, on down the road, some kind of a terrible accident with that old boat, and this was a relatively painless way to make sure it didn’t happen to us.


Maybe the purpose was to remind me how lucky I am to have such a great husband with such great driving skills, and to give him a really cool boat story to tell his friends. All of them are closet 007’s who love fast toys and explosions and emerging unscathed from terrible messes, too.


Like James Bond, he went up there on a mission: to get me that boat. So he was ”On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” when the boat became a ”Thunderball.”


Like 007, he survived the adventure. Thank you, Cap’n of Grace, that he’ll ”Die Another Day.” †

By Susan Darst Williams | | It’s a Guy Thing | © 2020