This columns was originally published Aug. 17, 2012.


Homer, Alaska, 1971

Ben had just beached his boat on the outside shore of the Homer Spit. We stopped like the bottom of the boat had a big suction cup attached. Ben had broken the steering wheel off with his chest and he was still hanging on to the steering wheel in death grip. He kept repeating “I hope nobody got hurt. I hope I din’t hurt nobody.” We assured him we were OK. Nadene assured him she was not! “You jest look at me Ben!” Only then, when he looked up at Nadene in all her muddy glory, with gunk dripping from her always perfect hair, did he start to laugh. We all laughed so hard we could not get out of the boat. We just sat there and pointed and laughed at each other.

Someone came running down the beach asking if everyone was OK. We looked up and there was a big crowd of onlookers standing at the top of the beach, looking down on us, some offered help and some just stood with hands in their pockets and they all joined in our laughter.

We finally regained our composure, surveyed the damage, and started gathering up the clams that had flown forward and now underneath the bow of the boat. That took us a long time, crawling under the bow, putting them in buckets, hauling up the steep incline to the old yellow bus. Turn around and go back and get more clams, crawl around, get another bucketful and haul it back up the incline. Just one other fellow helped us haul clams up to the bus. The rest decided the excitement was over and slowly went back to what they were doing before they were interrupted.

After hours and hours of gathering clams and carrying them up to the final resting place, the men took off in the boat to the marina, with a pair of vice grips where the steering wheel was not. They had a heck of a time going around the end of the Spit and into the marina as the vice grips kept sliding off. They had to go slow, for fear of running into something. It was a long time before they got to the docking area.

Nadene and I met them, thinking maybe finally we would possibly go get a shower at the public facility, but we did not want to go alone. Oh! No! They had other plans. They headed for the Salty Dog; they had a story to tell! Not knowing what to do we joined them all caked with mud and stringy hair. Somehow men with dried mud on them look better than women wearing dried mud. We all had fun telling our version of the “Wreck of Ben’s Boat,” to anyone who was interested.

The next two days we spent cleaning, eating and canning the wayward clams. And ever once in a while we looked up and we would burst out laughingfl all over again.

They had a terrible time getting the boat up on the trailer, when it came time to go home. With only the vice grips for a steering wheel, we finally solved that problem with two ropes one on each side of the boat, gently nudging and tugging the boat forward, no full throttle this time. Nadene was standing off to the side, with her hands piled on top of her head, urging us on — a one person cheer leader. “Owh Owh, come on now, Owh Owh come on Ben, you can do it! OWWWEEEE now be care-fee.” I looked around and sure enough, there was a small crowd gathered, watching and wondering what was going to happen this time.

Ben and Nadene would come and visit us or we would go see them or go fishing together on the Little Su, or water skiing on Big Lake and the first thing we would do was laugh and point fingers at each other. Oh! What fun we had in the Nort’ Land!

Year and years have gone by since then and I still get the giggles when I tell this story.

We all usually end up with the giggles and tears running down their cheeks.

Thank you for the many comments on this story.


About being afraid of big bodies of water and boats

Year: 1969, North Kenai, Alaska, now Nikiski, Alaska

Read more