Boats, ropes and me

Cindy ArpOur Town Outdoors

Sunday Dan and I were on Norris Lake for the first time this year. We took our pontoon boat, our shared WaveRunner and four friends with us. Unless we only have the WaveRunner, we always take friends. There’s a story behind that.

Dan and I are lake lovers. Dan’s summers were spent at his family’s cabin on Norris Lake where he and the other kids would beg change until they had enough gas money to go skiing. My summers were often at my grandmother’s farm on the Tennessee River where we’d go out in my dad’s homemade fishing boat, bailing water for most of the trip but having a great time.

Boat time: Cruising on Norris Lake

After Dan and I married, as soon as we could sort-of afford it, we bought an old ski boat. Confident in my 21-year-old self and without any training or knowledge of ski boats, I’d pull anybody who wanted to ski. I dodged other boats, rocked and rolled through the waves and often landed skiers on the shore. We laughed. We were young. We were invincible.

After several years, we switched to a heavier, much larger and more comfortable pontoon boat. One Sunday in late spring, we invited another couple to go with us in our new boat for a cruise on the nearby fast moving, exceedingly cold Clinch River. Off we went. When we arrived, there was an old-fashioned river baptism going on at the launch ramp. We stopped a respectful distance and 25-30 minutes later the congregants were gone.

Eager to start our cruise, we immediately headed for the launch. Before Dan started to back the boat into the river, I hopped out of the truck, grabbed the rope at the front of the boat, and wrapped the rope several times around my wrist. Knowing how cold the river was, I decided to let the rope play out a good bit as Dan backed the truck into the water and popped the boat off the trailer. The boat hit the water, and the rope started pulling me relentlessly towards the river.

Planting my feet, I grabbed the rope, and held on, but the 2,500-pound boat was winning. Quickly I was in the lake, up to my thighs, and with the water fast approaching my waist, I started yelling “Dan, Dan, Dan!” Dan couldn’t hear me – he was moving the truck to a parking spot, but one of our friends, whose name was also Dan, came running, grabbed the rope, and saved me from a trip down the river.

We tried several other times to launch the pontoon, but even keeping the rope short, I often wound-up almost at sea. I am not admitting a rope/boat/me defeat, but now we have friends along when we use the pontoon. Shakespeare said it best, “Discretion is the better part of valor ….”

For all fellow boating enthusiasts, consider remembering your better valor this summer. Launching the boat is probably not a problem, but when you’ve just gotten to the lake and you hear thunder, let discretion help you remember a storm might be coming. When another Wave Runner seems to be challenging you to a race, remember your valor, please.

The lakes are busy. Stay safe out there, y’all hear?

Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell. 


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