My Third Boat Accident

I’m in a confessional state and have decided to share some of the major misjudgments of my life. I may not reveal any more, but they say Confession is good for the soul. I must admit to having quite a few things where I believe the Lord has intervened on my behalf and this is one of them. Perhaps you, too, have similar life lessons that you have survived through no fault of your own.

In 2017, Idaho Fish & Game imposed strict new regulations on the sizes and numbers of Steelhead that anglers could harvest. This was because returns from the sea were much below normal (a trend that has continued in the following years.)

Surprisingly, my fishing buddy, Mike Bush of Spokane, and I found more willing Steelhead and an occasional Salmon than we had in most previous years. The above pictures are offered as evidence.

Obviously we were enjoying the season and were nearly gleeful with the promise of continuing success.

On the morning of Dec. 12, we met at a Lewiston boat ramp where we loaded all our gear into the boat and launched normally. I had made peanut brittle for Mike and his wife and had placed it in a brown bag with my lunch, snacks and a newspaper.

Mike had brought in his pack a large quantity of homemade ginger snaps that my wife and I enjoyed.

The boat started normally and we idled for five minutes or so as everything warmed up. The temperature was 27 degrees, there was hoar frost everywhere and mist rising from the river as we opened up to begin a 25 mile cruise upriver to our favorite fishing spot. We always enjoyed the ride and after a while would watch for the beautiful Bighorn Sheep that often are on the Idaho side of the canyon.

Finally everything was purring and we settled into the comfortable routine of something you’ve done dozens of times and that you’ve convinced yourself of your own expertise.

We talked as we rode through the morning mist as the sun cleared the air. We were comfortable as we passed Asotin and Mike decided to read the newspaper. I hummed along and then remembered the peanut brittle in the brown bag on the seat behind Mike.

Well, I decided, I should get the peanut brittle soon and present it to Mike (probably thinking that would hasten the unveiling of the ginger snaps!) After about five more minutes I convinced my self to drive on as I reached for the bag. It was just at my fingertips as I stretched and drove on.

Mike kept silent absorbed in the newspaper and I kept stretching for the elusive bag as I drove.

The boat cruised on at about 25 MPH oblivious to the peanut brittle search. At that speed you cover quite a bit of river in a very short time. Suddenly as I stretched Mike looked over his paper and screamed “CHARLIE!” I looked up fast enough to see that there was no river in front of us and at that instant the noise began and continued forever!

We plowed over bowling ball sized river rocks and through many scraggly willow bushes and came to a stop against a bigger bush. I was unhurt, Mike was unhurt and the engine was calmly purring. I shut it off!

We jointly said a prayer of thanks and began to ask ourselves what we could do to get back to civilization and help. There is a little cattle operation about a half mile downstream and about a seven mile walk to town. First, I sat in the now silent driver’s seat and tried my cell phone, NO SERVICE!

It’s a long way to the ground from a high and dry jet boat, but we crawled out and decided we might walk to the ranch. Low and behold after just taking 10 or 15 steps away from the beached boat I checked my cell phone again and miraculously I had SERVICE! I was overjoyed with hope. Now the age old first question was who to call to get out of here?

This river ranch just happens to be my neighbor and is accessed from the same back road I use every day. So, I called my next door neighbor and described my predicament. He agreed to come and get us! He said he would be there in about an hour.

Then the second question, how in the world do you ever rescue a 4000 pound boat that’s 50 feet over rocks from the river and totally unreachable by road. I tell people a little lie, but am not so sure that it isn’t actually true. I say, that I prayed for an inspiration as to who I could call to fix my mess. That’s when I say, “I heard a voice imploring me to Call Rusty Bentz!”

Truly, Mr. Rusty Bentz seems to know more about rivers and boats than anyone else I’ve met. Rusty bailed me out of accident No. 2 also if I ever tell that story.

Well, I called Rusty after we were back to Lewiston and his response was “Let me get my boat and some gear and we’ll have fun getting you back in the water!’

Amazingly Rusty analyzed my wreck and figured a way to attach a giant nylon rope to my boat and then use his twin engine boat to pull. I said nothing since I was asking him to help me, but I was not a believer.

But, thankfully I was wrong and his powerful boat yanked mine around and dragged it over dry rock until it was back afloat with me standing in the bushes to “lighten the load!” Rusty tied my boat up on the Washington side and then came back to pick me up. Hopefully a bit wiser and less confident,

My boat still ran and operated normally, but it took a bunch of work to get it back to great condition. I give thanks every day for many blessings and the reason I was able to get safely past my own poor actions is one of those. This is the time for all of us to count the blessing in our lives.

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