Friday, July 19, 2013

Inflatable Adventures

For most of my life I have had boats of one kind or another.  The largest, of course was the battleship, West Virginia which was my home in the South Pacific during WWII.  Progression from there on was a 12- foot wood skiff, a 15- foot cabin boat that Grace and  I built, a couple of  Fibre- glas 14 and 17 footers, a 23- foot Fibreform cabin cruiser, a pontoon boat and the most unique, a  13- foot inflatable made by Bombard.
      We were living in Honolulu, Hawaii after I retired from the state of Oregon in 1983.   A salesman took me for a ride in one powered by a 25-horse outboard and I was hooked! I made several trips out in the ocean from Ala Moana harbor  after I bought   it and enjoyed the craft immensely. 
      It was made of tough fabric impregnated with man-made vinyls and had aluminum floorboards and a transom stout enough to handle high-powered outboard motors.  According to sales brochures given me by the sales person the boats prototype had won two different races  on the swift, dangerous Salmon river in Idaho.  It rolled up In two packages--one for the hull and one for the aluminum floorboards.  It was a hassle to put it together so before long I bought a small trailer so I could keep in inflated at all times.
     When we returned to the mainland I sold the trailer, rolled up the Bombard and shipped it back to our home base in Oregon.  We bought a 5th wheel trailer and a one-ton pickup, put the boat on a special rack over the pickup cab and headed east.  On the rack overhead the boat faced stern-to forward and made quite a sight as we travelled down the road. The  pointed tubes of the boat looked like torpedos about to be launched.  We got stopped by a state patrolman late at night on a freeway in Wyoming who was simply curious as to what that monstrosity actually was. I think he was bored on a dark and lonely night.
    In Michigan we stopped at a grocery store and when the female clerk brought our groceries out to the pickup she looked up in awe at that monstrosity on the rack over the pickup and timidly asked, "Are those bombs?"
    We had no activity involving the boat until we arrived in Texas, near  Corpus Christie, at a great state park called Goose Island.The campsites were all located up against a low seawall next to the waterway called Aransas Pass.  The water there was very quiet and just a couple of feet deep next to the wall.  Great access for use of the inflatable. Across the waterway was  Matagorda island, a part of the Barrier Islands that extend down the Texas shoreline. A great area for fishing for sea trout and Redfish.  It was relatively safe to get there except for the many underwater mounds of clam sells which, if struck at too great a speed, would slice the bottom out of an inflatable.  I lucked out on missing all those mounds going and coming but didn't fare so well with a spiny catfish.
      I invited a camping neighbor to join me for a short venture offshore from the camp and he had the misfortune of hooking  one of those catfish. Their fighting  weapons are two needle-sharp spikes they poke out ridgedly from each side of their head.  In bringing the fish in towards the boat he let the fish swing in against the hull and we ended up with a tiny pinhole in the hull which leaked air a bubble at a time.  I fought that tiny leak for the rest of the time I owned that boat.
      Surgery on one of my knees while we had moved on to Arizona put me out of the boat business for some time and I ended up selling it to a dive shop.  If it is still in use I suspect it is still doing duty retrieving SCUBA divers in some saltwater in the  Pacific Ocean.

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