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Notes From the Dockside: All is well that ends well

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Notes From the Dockside: All is well that ends well
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

As we leave home there are no indications of any storms brewing. My seven-year-old grandson Max and I are going fishing. His grandmother, The Bass Queen sends us off with a "be careful and catch lots of fish." We stop, as is our tradition, and get a couple of hot dogs for lunch.

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When we get to the lake, Max helps me get the boat ready and slips into his life vest. After I launch the boat, Max holds onto the bow rope making sure that the boat does not drift off as I park the van and trailer.

It is a typical day of fishing for us. We work the shoreline with ice jigs and grubs below a light float. We are catching fish and have, perhaps, a little over two dozen bluegills that we have caught and released. As we drift along the bank the float tips up and begins to move. Max understands that this means a fish is hitting the bait.

I set the hook and hand him the rod. He brings the fish in as it splashes on the surface of the lake and tugs against the rod. He is always very happy when he gets the fish in and many times asks me to measure the fish. He is getting a lot of eight- and nine-inch bluegills.

It is our last day of fishing together and I want to get as much fishing in as we can. Max is beginning to lose interest and starts to investigate around the boat. It does not bother me that he is moving around the boat. He has his life jacket on and is used to being in the boat so there is no harm done or danger to him.

I am hoping that he can catch a few more fish and am not paying a lot of attention to anything except Max and me catching fish when suddenly I feel a cold blast of wind. I look up. Dark, ugly storm clouds are building up on the horizon. The wind has picked up and the temperature seems to have dropped.

"I think we have to leave," I tell Max. He seems fine with that. I put away his rod, lower my pedestal seat and slide behind the console. I turn on the motor and it chugs away but does not start. By now the wind is getting worse and the storm is getting closer. I try again. The motor will not start. I try again. Still it does not start.

I look up and the skies above us are getting worse. The landing is across and down the lake from us. The only option I can think of is for us to use the trolling motor but then I remember that yesterday, when we came back from fishing, I had not charged the battery. We had been out for only a couple of hours the day before and I knew that we would be out for a couple of hours today so I thought I could wait another day before charging the battery.

Now I began to worry. The battery had to be running low and I was going to troll back to the landing against the wind. It looked like the only option so I turn the boat into the wind and start across the lake with the trolling motor, praying that the battery had enough charge for us to get there.

I am starting to feel a bit of desperation. If we cannot get back to the landing and we get caught out here in this storm, grandma, The Bass Queen and my daughter Lisa, Max's mother, would not be happy with me. On top of it all I remember that we left Max's rain jacket in the van.

It took forever to get across the lake with the wind buffeting us. I am starting to get anxious with every passing minute as I look into the west to see the gathering storm. This trolling motor is taking an agonizingly long time and the storm is approaching rapidly.

Finally I nose the bow of the boat into the short channel that leads to the landing. Although it looks as if it will start to rain any moment I know we will soon be at the landing. If the charge in the battery gives out, I can paddle to the landing. It has been a long time since I breathed such a sigh of relief as I do when I finally pull the boat up on shore and race off to get the van and trailer.

As we are driving home the skies open and the rains come pounding down. I say a prayer of thanks to being off the lake. On the way home I make a quick detour to The Boat Doctor. "This cannot ever happen again," I tell him. "Do whatever it takes but get it fixed for good."

The next day Kevin from The Boat Doctor calls. "It was the tether cord on your kill switch," he says. "Somehow it got pulled out."

It made sense now. Max had probably bumped it when he was investigating about the boat. It made me feel better that there was not something wrong with the motor but I felt silly that I had not checked the kill switch. It could have been a lot worse if we had got caught out on the lake and could not get back to the landing.

Everything did turn out OK but I learned some lessons. I will always check the kill switch first if the motor does not start and make sure that the battery is charged for each day of fishing and watch little fishermen in the boat a bit closer. Also it again made me thankful that everything turned out fine. All is well that ends well.

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