Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Sept. 21, 2021

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Everybody Has a Story: Up a creek with a boat that won’t float


Thirty years into Alaskan adventures, my husband, George, and I found ourselves up a creek without a boat — or, that, is, with a boat that wouldn’t float.

George had floated Moose Creek many times and finally talked me into this adventure. We rented a really nice rubber raft and paddles, and paid a bunch of money to a fly-in service to be dropped off by car at a remote creek, with airplane retrieval three days later and 30 miles downstream.

As we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere, we were eager to get going. We might have been a bit too enthusiastic while pumping up the boat. The side we were inflating was nearing full and tight when, to our horror, we heard an explosion. Had we read the instructions, they probably would have mentioned pumping up the two sides equally before topping them off. Unfortunately, we caused an aneurysm that popped, ripping a 5-inch hole in the tube.

The patch kit contained a tiny tube of glue, a few quarter-sized patches, a needle and flosslike thread. Not liking the thought of swimming the river, we got to work on the patching. Fancying myself a good seamstress, I rolled up the ripped tube, stitched away, squeezed out the entire quarter ounce of glue and stuck on the patches as best as possible.

An hour later, we decided to try out the patch and make sure the boat held air by paddling upstream a bit. But the stream quickly whipped the boat around and downstream, committing us to leaky boat travel for the next three days.

Actually the patch was rather successful, requiring us to beach the boat “only” every 30 minutes, for the next 30 miles, to add air. Mosquitoes weren’t too bad in the middle of the river, but on the beach they were quite fierce. This led to a bit of whining, and possibly cursing, on my part as we made our way downstream.

After 2½ days of stressful travel and constant beaching for airing up the boat, I realized this was one beautiful place. We were close to our destination and would make it after all. I even agreed that I might consider the trip again, that is, with a few modifications: no popped boat, a head-net for bugs and earplugs to drown out the wild animal sounds at night.

As we returned the boat to the rental shop, we were asked if we had a good trip. We replied, “Yes, but the boat had a leak and required extra pumping to keep it full.”

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