While passing through northern Idaho, we stopped to visit one of my Dad’s college buddies, Jeff, and his wife, Mary, for an action-packed 24 hours. Jeff and Mary have a place on Lake Pend Oreille (means earring, loosely), a large lake north of the more touristy Lake Coeur d’Alene. It’s a beautiful lake; National Forests surround much of the lake and sheer cliffs make long sections uninhabitable. It still feels wild, but there are also plenty of boat-up restaurants and bars along the shore.
The lake was unusually calm when we visited, so we took out Jeff’s old trawler, the Mosquito Coast. It’s an aluminum-hulled swamp boat that he uses to cruise around and fish. On our way back across the lake, we spotted something floating in the water – it was a dog, frantically swimming, exhausted, looking like it was about to go under. We pulled up alongside and hauled it in and it shook a couple gallons of water into the bottom of the boat. We looked around, trying to figure out where the dog came from — we were in the middle of the lake. There was only one other boat on the lake, but it was about a half mile away. We radioed, but they didn’t respond. Suddenly the boat swung around and headed back towards us. A gigantic shirtless older guy was at the helm and his large wife was sunning herself on the front deck. They didn’t seem too concerned. This was their first day out in the boat and, gosh darn it, it looked like the dog had just fallen over the side. “He doesn’t like the water,” the woman explained. We wondered how long it would have taken them to notice he was gone.
The next morning, the wind looked a little more promising, so we took out the sailboat. As we cruised across the bay, we were hit with a few gusts, and heeled over enough to make me regret coming out after all. Just when I was ready to ask to be taken back, the wind died down and we were able to gently float along, tacking back and forth across the bay. This is exactly how I like to sail. We sipped Kokanees, told sailing stories, and I relaxed enough to take off my life jacket. The guys hated the lack of wind, of course.
“Hey, you wouldn’t happen to need an extra marine battery, would you?” Paul asks. “Why yes,” Jeff replied, “I do! I was just thinking I needed to get a new one for the sailboat.” What luck. We had carried around our marine battery for months, thinking we’d eventually wire it up to a solar panel and create a charging station for our electronic gear. There have been a few times when this would have been nice, but not enough that we’d ever actually gotten around to doing anything about it. We got to unload our heavy, bulky battery, rearrange our “kitchen” to make it much more functional, and create a spot for book deep-freeze-storage (for keepers). Jeff got a new(ish) marine battery. Jeff said that everything happens for a reason. It’s our version of Sirens of Titan.