Boating with gas or gators?

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

The boat has not been out of its slip much this year. The weather, of course, gets some of the blame, and low water, but that’s not the whole story. For most of the spring, Lake Eufaula actually has had plenty of water, although one must remain watchful and keep the speed down.

I’ve been to the lake just once since the weather has been warm this year. Our idea of perfect boating weather is chilly enough for a blanket at night, warm enough to wear a damp bathing suit while cooking dinner.

This is the first time I’ve been out since last summer’s knee surgery. For some reason I’m taking alligators more seriously than I ever have before. Dave keeps saying, “Don’t worry about them. They only come after people if they’re really hungry. Any ’gators in Lake Eufaula are well fed on fish, birds and raccoons.”

Well, now, how does he know that? Is someone doing a survey? Tell that to the woman who lost a leg last fall to a ’gator while riding her bike.

Thanks to good rehab following knee replacement, my legs are probably stronger than they’ve ever been. They just don’t feel that way.

I eased down the ladder into the water with Dave promising to watch for ’gators. I took a bar of soap to wash up.

“Do you see anything?” I burbled between duckings to rinse my hair. “You couldn’t see him anyhow if he came in submerged.”

“I’m watching, and there’s nothing there,” he tried to sound reassuring. “Swim around a little, get some exercise.”

That’s when I really started to worry. I was always a good swimmer, lifeguard-trained, in fact, and I’m not one to worry unnecessarily. But I discovered that I sank like a rock when I tried to cast loose from the ladder. Loss of weight since surgery, I guess. My legs would look better on an ostrich, without an ounce of buoyant fat.

I know, nobody wants fat thighs, but they sure help hold you near the surface when swimming among the alligators. It was all I could do to pull myself up out of the water and back into the boat.

Then it was Dave’s turn. I watched the surrounding wavelets, but if a ’gator decided to take a snap at Dave’s well-shaped swim trunks, there wouldn’t have been a thing in the world I could have done to save him.

And I noticed he didn’t swim away from the boat as he used to do. Checked the prop, then came right back to the ladder and up onto the deck.

I suppose it’s only a matter of time before we start hauling buckets of water out of the lake and dump them over each others’ heads to wash. We have a sun-shower on top of the cabin, big enough to give each of us an adequate shower. Trouble is, when the weather’s cold, the bag of water is cold, and when it’s a hot day, it’s a hot shower. We’ve got to figure out how to reverse that.

The cost of gasoline has put a damper on boating, but not nearly so much as you might think. It’s 121 miles from home to the docks at Lakepoint, in a car that gets about 40 miles to the gallon. That’s three gallons, or $12 one way, $24 roundtrip, for the two of us.

We used to spend weeks at a time cruising rivers like the Chattahoochee and the Tennessee, but now we stay out only a week or so at a time, and a lot of that is at anchor in some quiet tree-wrapped bay. We read, we sleep, we listen to public radio and watch birds, and I write, or try to. Can’t get Internet – this is technically Alabama, you know – but it’s good to do without it now and then.

Dockside gas is expensive, for sure, all the more reason to putt-putt instead of zoom-zoom. Dave says he puts about five gallons of gas in the boat, and that will keep him putt-putting for a long weekend. We go through drinking water faster than that.

For years we’ve been telling people how good we have gas prices here in the States. The big billboards on the Interstate read 1.29 while on the Autobahn in Germany, the billboards said 1.56.

Not too bad, right? Wrong. The 1.29 meant $1.29 per gallon, and the 1.56 was in Euros per liter, about four of which it takes to make a gallon.

That was several years ago. We bit the bullet and paid through the nose, if you’ll pardon a really mixed metaphor. A recent graphic in the AJC compared gas prices (in U.S. dollars), and in Germany gas was more than $10 per gallon, the highest in Europe.

We had planned to spend time with Mary this year. We haven’t been to Europe for several years, not since she moved to Mannheim.

What’ll it be, gas prices or alligators?

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