My first maritime rescue mission!

A friend of mine invited me along for some boating this morning. We took out a 23-foot fishing yacht, and enjoyed the waters of Hampton Roads between Norfolk and Hampton. It was choppy on the east side of the Hampton Roads bridge, but quite a bit calmer on the west side. I even had a shot at piloting, which was a thrill, because I had never done it before (and my friend is not much more experienced than I am!)

After a while, clouds began rolling in, and we decided to head back. I was just beginning to hoist up the anchor when my friend saw a flare go up from a small boat about a quarter-mile to starboard. (God, I love talking like a sailor!) It turns out, though, that the Fourth of July is the worst day possible for a Roman candle red signal flare to get any notice. It took me several minutes to pull up the anchor through the mud (there’s got to be an easier way, and no, this boat didn’t have any kind of wench at all). Honestly, we were hoping that another boat might answer the call, but none did, so as soon as we were free, we sped off to help.

A man, woman and boy were on the boat—they couldn’t start their engine due to a dead battery. They had called a friend to come and get them, but we offered a tow, and they accepted. (Good thing, too. A thunderstorm had opened up, and visibility was down to about 200 yards. They would’ve been stuck for a long time.) It’s hard to understand directions being shouted from another boat over the roar of a 200-horsepower outboard motor in a heavy downpour, but we soon reached their boat ramp in Portsmouth. They were grateful for our help, and we felt grateful to be able to give it. It was a wet, long ride back to Hampton through the rain, but it felt like such a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday. No, my first “rescue mission” didn’t involve CPR or any heroics, just a neighborly tow, but hey, that’s Jedi life in the real world.

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