Kinda’ Spooky

Even though we were both past retirement age our jobs required our presence on site so days off were scarce, so Jimmy Buck and I jumped at the chance of a hastily organized fishing trip.  Hastily organized because Brad had just returned from a tour in Korea and had been transferred into the First Cavalry Division, at Ft. Hood and they were currently training for a bout with the aggressors at Ft. Irwin.  It also happened that at the time Iraq was being fumbled by the U.N. Inspectors.

Brad had called and said that he had this coming Friday off and so did his kids and he would like to take his son, Bradley, salt water fishing.  Bradley, at the time was thirteen and had been fishing with me several times, so I quickly said OK and called Jim and he said that since his nephew and great nephew would be there, he would make time to go, so the trip was on!

The night before Brad and his family drove down from Copperas Cove and when Jim drove down we were almost ready to shove off.  Months before, Layla and I had moved full time to Bayou Vista and I had my twenty-two footer in the boat stall on the canal, so all we had to do was load up the ice, water, food and Jim’s tackle.

Brad and Bradley were using my tackle and shrimp were no problem since I had bought some the night before and kept them alive in a specially remanufactured, plastic, garbage can tied to the boat stall.  Transferring them, using a long handled net only took a short time and then we were off.

My “party” wanted to fish Jones Lake to see if my bragging was correct and the fishing was as really as good as I had been saying.  Since it was Friday, as we glided under the railroad bridge, boat traffic was almost non-existent.  At mid tide the bridge’s clearance was almost seven feet and the distance between the bridge supports was about eight feet, with signs clearly marking both channels.  Several years before, a new bridge had been built that really opened up Bayou Vista’s access to West Galveston Bay.

This is a picture of Highlands Bayou flowing under the new, Bayou Vista bridge.  The old bridge had half the clearance of the new one.  The Bayou empties into Jones Lake and then on into West Galveston Bay.  When I took this shot, the tide was high, it was cloudy and threatening rain, the precursor of Tropical Storm Erin, that one week later caused serious flooding in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Sometimes you get lucky and today was one of those days with the tide flowing in all morning, light winds from the southeast and nice, green, clear water.  All we had to do now was find signs of baitfish or shrimp popping out of the water as the predators chased them.

As we cruised slowly towards Tiki Island, the boat seemed to handle a little sluggish, but I thought it was just the load of our food, water and equipment, plus the four big guys.  There were bait fish in the water as we started our drift and began casting out our shrimp, under rattling popping corks and soon, whamo, Jim was into a nice fish, a speckled trout, definitely a keeper, that when netted it was unceremoniously pitched into the big cooler.  Shortly Brad connected and we iced down another trout.  Bradley had a solid strike, a spec that he landed, but it proved to be below the minimum length so back into the water with it.  We iced down another and seemed to have drifted out of the fish, so we made a slow circle back, near to our original starting point.

During this move the boat was still sluggish, so I gave it more gas and as we started our drift, Bradley cast out and was rewarded by his cork slowly going under.  “Bradley, let it go under, slowly take up your slack, now hit him,” I instructed, and his bowed rod and line peeling off his reel, gave tentative identification to the fish, probably a nice red. Several years before when Bradley hooked his first big red, he was afraid it was going to pull him into the water, but not this time because he successfully brought the fish, a keeper red, to the boat and it was added to the cooler.  This spot slowed so we prepared to move to another proven spot about a half mile away.

Bringing the boat to plane, I was now certain something was wrong with the motor, it bogged down and barely got the boat up on top, but reaching the new spot OK, we started our drift.  Soon we had boated 3 more keepers and as the fishing slowed we decided to circle back and drift through this spot again.

Attempting to start the motor, grind, grind, nothing happened.  No ignition.  Grind, grind again, nothing as Jim said, “It seems like it’s broke.  You have plenty of gas?”  Looking at the gauge, I replied, “Three fourths.”  Brad added, “Dad, does this boat always ride so low in the water?”  “No,” I exclaimed, kneeling down and opening an inspection plate, I spied our problem.  The entire bilge area was full of water, that’s why it was sluggish.  Obviously the bilge pumps had shorted out but the motor should have started.  Trying again, grind, grind, nothing.

Facing my “party” I told them, “Boys, it looks like were stuck.  Get on the life jackets and Bradley tie a rag onto the end of your rod and put it into the rear rod holder,” and the “crew” complied with the orders.  We were less than 2 miles from my canal house, but the channels had some 10, foot plus holes, so wading and pulling the boat back was out of the question and swimming the boat through and under the railroad bridge was virtually impossible so we’ll have to sit and await a rescuer.

Now the story gets real strange.  We had been the only boat in Jones Lake, but in the distance there was one boat heading our way. It turned out to be a nice, bay/offshore fishing boat, 23, feet long with a 225 on the back end, a nice rig, and nice to see him!  Pulling up beside us, the driver said, not even asking if we need help, “I’m here to pull you all in.”  “That is fine with me.” I replied, as I tossed him a line, then adding, “Getting under the bridge is going to present us some problems.”  He said, “If all of you all can keep it from banging into the supports, I believe we can sneak through OK.”  Never having seen this man or his boat before, I wondered how he knew about the bridge?

We putted up Highlands Bayou and, with no damage, manhandled the boat, riding low in the water, through the bridge, the flotation keeping it up.  Asking the Good Samaritan if he would tow us on to Louis’ Bait Camp to use the ramp and load up there, he gladly complied.  Calling Layla on my cell phone, I told her we had a problem and asked her to hook up the trailer to the Suburban and come on down to Louis’.

Once we were tied up to a pier at Louis’, I offered to pay the man for his help, “No,” he replied, “I broke down a couple of weeks ago and was pulled in from 20 miles offshore, and I’m returning the favor. I knew someone needed help and I’m more than glad to offer it.”  Wow!  How did he know we needed help, kinda’ spooky wasn’t it?

We loaded the boat onto the trailer, took it to the local boat shop, and two weeks and $720.00 later, it ran like new.  The leak in the bilge area was caused by a worn water line going into the live well and a loose fitting had allowed the water into the gas tank.  From then on I used the live well for storage and closed the valve to its water intake.

Having pulled in several boats, once finding an empty boat and even saving 3 men from drowning in a sinking fishing boat, this was different, me getting pulled in, but it all ended well because we did have enough fish for a big fish fry that night!  However, it has passed through my mind that I never saw the man or his boat again!