Goodness, The Things You See While Camping

By Maria Liddiard

My husband and I are avid boaters, campers and fisher-people. During the season we spend as many weekends as possible at lakes and campsites in the beautiful state of Utah. One of our favorite past-times and the source of much laughter and entertainment is watching boaters launch and load boats at the marinas we visit.

Marinas are busy hubs of activity as boaters, skiers, fishermen, jetskiers and divers launch or retrieve boats and other equipment for play and fun in the sun. The variety of equipment is amazing and ranges from yachts to small well-used fishing boats with antique motors. Individual equipment is as unique as individual owners.

My special responsibility is the care of our 17 1/2 foot Sea Ray boat at the dock while my husband backs the truck and trailer down the ramp for loading. Time spent there with the boat has rewarded me with an opportunity to view some amusing incidents.

One of my first observations was watching an obviously unmarried couple pulling a bass boat from the water. How did I know they were not married? Number one, because of all the romantic stuff going on in their boat while on the water and, second, married couples have a previously arranged routine to deal with launching and loading their rigs. It was apparent this particular couple had no experience working together.

The weather had suddenly changed on the lake to wind and rain and our two boats had returned at the same time to the marina. The other woman and I had stood holding our bouncing boats to keep them from banging into the dock, dressed in summer shorts and tops, soaking wet, cold and freezing. I was certain my husband was going for a dip in the lake as he was having a difficult time keeping his feet on the slippery wharf while checking out this blonde in her wet T-shirt. The thought crossed my mind that I ought to give him a helpful trip into the water, but my own goose bumps were too large to move.

My wet friend's male companion backed a large motor home down the ramp and proceeded to drive the bass boat onto the trailer. My blonde friend is instructed to drive the motor home up the hill, thereby pulling the boat from the water. She slips the transmission into gear, unknowingly hitting reverse instead of forward, and backs the motorhome into the water. The bass boat floats off the trailer with her companion still on it, and he begins yelling and shouting obscenities at the inexperienced driver.

She realizes what she's done, and locates forward gear. With the wheels thrashing and churning mud and water, the motor home lurches forward. The boat returns to the trailer in a lop-sided position and the sudden forward motion almost throws her companion from the boat. With the boat sitting lopsided on the trailer and much water running from the back of the motor home, the driver jerks to the top of the ramp. Her companion is clinging to the boat for his very life and yelling at her to stop, but with the noise from the engine she can't hear him.

As the boat and motorhome reach the top of the ramp, my friend's companion leaps from the boat and trailer and begins screaming and swearing at the blonde driver. A terrific fight ensues with two loud voices and much yelling. Suddenly, items are being thrown inside the motorhome and the blonde appears carrying a bag and her purse. Ah, the bliss of romance. The blonde in her wet T-shirt begins walking down the highway leaving her boating companion to care for his still lopsided boat and flooded motorhome. As long as her top remains wet she should not have much difficulty obtaining a ride.

On previous visits to an especially favorite lake, we had observed what appeared to be a very old boat turned upside down on the bank close to the marina. We both had remarked on the unusual construction of this particular craft, which was obviously homemake and an original design. My husband and I felt the boat unusable and certainly unsafe. It was made of plywood about 14 feet long wih a wooden top in which four oblong holes had been cut in which to place the occupants feet. Someone at sometime had visions of a new boat design in which people sat on the top of the boat and their feet were placed inside.

On approaching the marina this day we were amazed to see this unusual craft tied to the dock to be used by a family with several young children and adults. The family loaded themselves into their craft, the last person to embark being a very large woman weighing at least 250 pounds. There were maybe six inches of freeboard above the water until this immense lady took her seat on one side of the small boat. The boat almost capsized with all occupants aboard, but was righted by the man at the antique 3-horsepower Sears motor.

With an open throttle, the craft barely moved and floated two inches above the water. I looked on in amazement and remarked that they would surely sink and require rescuing. I prayed the children would not drown. They journeyed perhaps 50 feet from the dock when the old motor sputtered to a stop and our previous hero began pulling mightily on the cord to no avail. What a lovely voyage, 50 feet from the dock, a nice drift, and back again to the dock with the help of a kindly observer in his boat.

Jet-skiers seem to have exciting thrills as they speed and swish around the lakes. I watched one young man unload his jet-ski and proceed to drive it between the boats at the dock, and other boats that were coming and going. His jet was the type on which one stands up to ride, but he seemed to be having a problem with his balance. He almost tipped over several times while trying to go from a kneeling position to a standing position and would then look around at the crowd surrounding the marina before trying again.

Finally, I thought he'd made it as he took a full stand and gave it the gas. He made a full sweep in front of the dock and raised one fist in victory, only to make a splendid crash about 70 feet from the dock. The crowd roared their approval. The skier surfaced and, his pride obviously hurt, climbed back on his jet-ski and in a sitting position, slowly motored out of sight.

The range of different types of trucks and boats that we have seen is unfathomable. No two are exactly alike. I thought the term low-rider only pertained to cars until I saw a certain combination as we were launching our boat early one morning.

The truck was red and equipped with three sets of mud flaps, one in front and two in the rear. One set of mud flaps was located behind the front tires, and one set of rear mud flaps was anchored directly behind the rear wheels and a third set was close to the rear bumper. This guy must travel in very muddy country. Attached to the hood of the vehicle were four separate antennas, I can only guess at their different uses. A red shell covered the bed of the truck and on the inside windows were red curtains. Matching curtains also appeared along the side windows of the red boat. On the hood of the truck was a large ram head, about 12 inches high.

To complete the matching ensemble in the boat were two additional antennas, fish-finder, down-rigger and, the finishing touch, red-painted rod holders. I expected that any minute the owner would hit the hydraulic switch and the whole rig would start jumping up and down.

During a recent fishing/camping trip we stayed several nights in a large crowded campground. I had the enchanting experience of standing in line with 25 other women waiting to take a shower. It was a long line, but I was desperately in need of a good cleaning and spent the time visiting with other ladies from all over the United States. Here we were withour towels, hair dryers, curling irons and wonderful clean clothes, hoping the hot water would last. By the time it was my turn for a hot shower I had met people from San Diego, Ohio, Iowa and New Mexico. We had a great time visiting and exchanging camping and boating tips.

On returning to my camper I noticed a middle-aged woman placing a large mat on the ground underneath the canopy which hung from her trailer. She then proceeded to turn on the aerobic workout video tape on the VCR and TV inside the trailer, which she could see through the window. As the music started and the instructor began the warmup routine, the woman started her version of the workout, heedless of anyone else in the campground. Leg lifts, knee lifts, arm extensions, she did it all.

I looked around to see if any of the neighbors were watching and, sure enough, campers in the close vicinity were eyeballing this woman as she did her routine. Several couples were out for an evening stroll and they paused to watch and moved on with smiles on their faces. I entered our camper to find my husband peeking through the curtains and laughing hysterically. He made the suggestion that perhaps besides a shower I needed a good workout; I suggested that he join the enthusiast outside, as it might help shrink his love handles.

On and on she went . . . her stamina was amazing. Staying in shape was more important than the curious eyes of fellow campers, and her exercise was not to be interrupted by a vacation trip. By the time she began the cool-down routine, I was exhausted. I promised myself a real workout the following day . . . by slipping into my bikini, donning suntan oil, and resting in the sun.