Saturday, August 21, 2010

Without Wings

There is really no excuse for my absence, so I am not going to attempt to make one.  But I am going to make a better attempt at posting more often.  The past few weeks have been busy with work and kids and relatively uneventful.  We recently had a large software release at work and my team is gearing up for two big projects, so yesterday was the perfect time to take a break and blow off some steam. 

A coworker of mine, AKA the target of my April Fool’s prank, has been trying for several weeks to organize a team outing that would make use of his jet skis and a boat.  Due to some scheduling conflicts, a lot of our team couldn’t attend, and due to a system issue, our boat captain was not going to be able to provide the boat.  Hoping to salvage the trip, our dauntless organizer tried to find anyone willing to sacrifice their Friday to spend it out on the water.  My boss, one of the guys on my team and myself were willing to make that sacrifice. 

The cruise organizer, we’ll call him Julie for now (in fact that’s what we called him all day anyway), had everything scheduled down to the minute.  The plan was to arrive at his house at 10 AM, fuel up the jet skis and be in the water by 11 AM.  Everyone arrived on schedule, and we were in the truck and ready to roll by 10:30.  We stopped to get gas, some drinks and snacks for the trip.  As we were pulling away from the gas pumps the driver’s side fender of the trailer clipped the steel bumpers they put at the corners of the gas pump island.  There appeared to be only a minor dent in the fender, so we headed off.  As we drove down the street, the fender looked like it was rubbing the tire.  So we pulled off into the next gas station and jumped out to survey the damage.  I immediately reached down and pried the metal away from the tire and got a little more than I expected.  Let me describe the scenario with a little more detail.  Rubber tire, steel fender, constant contact for about a quarter of a mile at about 35 miles per hour.  If you still don’t get the picture, the fender was goddamn HOT!  In fact, it was hot enough to give me a 2nd degree burn in the less than ten seconds that I had a hold of it.  A huge blister immediately formed on my pinky. 

No big deal, I have had worse.  We all jumped back in the truck and drove off to boat ramp.  We were in the water by 11 AM, exactly as Julie predicted.  The water was perfect, warm and flat as glass.  The weather was perfect.  We headed off to Hart-Miller Island on the Chesapeake Bay.  We beached the skis and unpacked our gear.  We had a couple of drinks and shot the shit.  Andrew had brought along a ball that he had picked up on a trip.  He said the advertisements claimed that the ball would bounce on water.  We all headed out into the water to test it out.  And it WORKED!  The ball really did bounce on water.  The flatter the trajectory of the throw the more it skips and the faster it goes.  I found them on Amazon as soon as I got back, they are called the Waboba Ball.  I am definitely picking one or two of these.

We had a good time tossing the ball around, but I wanted back on the jet skis, I wanted to get back on the water.  I tried to explain my love of the water before and being right there on the beach was amazing, but to be out on the water is something completely different.  So I left my companions on the beach and headed out for a solo run.  I had never driven a jet ski before, but I have driven a boat.  I took the first five minutes to make sure I knew what I was doing and to make sure I knew how to control it and to make sure I wouldn’t kill myself.  After that, I just opened it up.  I don’t have pretty words to describe the feeling of doing 50+ MPH over the water with nothing separating you from the water but a little fiberglass and a foam seat cushion.  I imagine that it’s a lot like flying but without wings.  If you have never done it before, do it and do it now. 

The water was still very calm and I could just skim across with the throttle wide open.  That suited me for a little, but then I started hunting down passing boats.  I had some fun cutting across their wakes.  It wasn’t until a crabbing boat came along that was pushing a lot of water that I found out how awesome it could be.  The first time the jet ski and I left the surface of the water, I knew I was in love.  I don’t know how much time I spent out there, but I figured I needed to head back in to give someone else a turn.

When I got back we all headed out to the other side of the island where the water was a little rougher.  Since there were four of us and only two jet skis, we would take turns driving.  About ten minutes into the trip we had our first plunge into the water.  I was riding passenger with Patrick, AKA Julie, on the lead ski, Andrew and Hudson were following behind.  My job was to 1) hold on, 2) keep looking back to make sure the other two were keeping up with us.  The first job was simple enough, you just lock one hand under the vinyl strap on the seat and you are good to go.  The second job also proved easy enough too, until we both noticed the other jet ski to be driverless and saw the two heads bobbing up and down in the bay.  We turned around to lend a hand in rescuing our companions from the water.  My third and newest job proved to be a little more difficult.  I was supposed to grab the riderless ski, which was right-side up which is a good thing and pull it over to the two stranded in the water. 

I learned a few things during our rescue mission.  Thing number one – there is no really good place to grab a jet ski.  Thing number two – the more I lean, the more the jet ski leans.  Thing number three (and the most important thing) – if you lean too much and you are about to roll the jet ski, let the hell go of the other jet ski or just jump in.  So I rolled Pat and I and our jet ski over.  We weren’t doing 50 MPH or jumping waves or slaloming between crab pots, we were sitting still in.  So now all four of us were in the water and one of the jet skis was upside down (usually not a bad thing, they are designed to recover from stuff like that).  BUT I managed to still hold on to both of the skis.  Everyone recovered, two pairs of sunglasses lost, but everything else was fine.

Back to the holding on thing.  Apparently if you hold onto the seat strap with your palm up and your knuckles against the seat, you can wear away a nice chunk of skin from your knuckles.  At one point I looked down at the seat and the strap I was holding was covered in blood.  I hadn’t heard of any sharks in this part of the bay, so I didn’t worry too much about it.

We drove around a little more and decided to break for lunch at a restaurant.  We sat down exactly at 2 PM, exactly as Julie, I mean Pat, scheduled.  After a big lunch we rode around some more, with only one more unintentional dive into the ocean and then spent an hour digging for clams.  I think they managed to grab about 150 nice sized clams.  We made it back to Pat’s around 6 PM and I was home and showered by 7:30. 

A big thank you to Patrick for an amazing day!

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