The quest not to be ‘that guy’ begins anew

I laughed and waved and told others in the boat that I never wanted to be “that guy.”

“That guy” was the guy who was standing in a boat being towed off the ocean near Key Largo, Fla., in early June. No doubt he had motor trouble, an incredibly lousy moment for any boater.

The boat pulling him was a tow vessel from TowBoatU.S. TowBoatU.S. is a company that specializes in helping stranded boaters, primarily in coastal waters where boaters in trouble may need help in a hurry to avoid being washed out to sea and never heard from again. TowBoatU.S. sells coverage policies to boaters and responds when necessary. Unfortunately, their rescue craft are not available anywhere near North Dakota waters.

Fortunately for me boaters in North Dakota are kind enough to help each other out on the water. I needed help last weekend when I became “that guy”. That’s right, the motor on my fishing boat screamed, squealed and abruptly stopped while I was preparing to move from one fishing spot to another. In other words, I was dead in the water – up that famous creek without a paddle.

Actually, I had a paddle, but it was about five miles to the boat ramp. I estimated the paddle time to be about four days. My electric trolling motor would have gotten me closer to where I wanted to go but I would probably have run out of battery power short of the dock.

Boaters in distress are supposed to wave life jackets or seat cushions in the air in any sort of panicky, frantic display necessary at such times. I guess I was too embarrassed to do that. Instead, I waited for a boater to zip by in the hopes that he’d cast a look my way. When that happened, I managed a more modest gesture for help. It felt good when the boat turned its course to assist.

Upon seeing this maneuver my first thought was that I was about to ruin somebody else’s fishing time by asking for help. As the boat came closer I could see it was a brand that matched a trailer parked at the same Lake Darling boat ramp where I was hoping to return. I felt a little better about imposing.

Coming to my rescue was Brent Hellseth of Minot. Also aboard were John Neiss of Minot and 7-year-old Daakon Hellseth. They were great help and I greatly appreciated it. Within a minute we had a tow line attached and were headed for the boat ramp. I couldn’t help but think how helpful boaters can be when it comes to assisting others on the water.

The trip to the ramp was a necessarily slow one. It gave me time to pack up everything in my boat, enjoy the scenery and wonder how much damage had occurred to my motor and why. When we got to the ramp and my boat was securely tied to the dock, Hellseth loaded his boat onto his trailer.

We didn’t have much time to talk. He was running late to a birthday party. Towing me in put him behind schedule, maybe even in somebody’s doghouse, but he never said a word about that until we got to the dock. Hellseth was a boater helping another boater and I couldn’t be more thankful for the timely and courteous assistance.

Admittedly, I sometimes complain about rude boaters, reckless boat wakes and boaters spending too much time on the ramp. Last weekend helped put things back into perspective, reminding me that there’s plenty of good people on the water, too. I always knew that. Last weekend’s tow gave me more time to appreciate it.

I don’t want to be “that guy” ever again.

But I’ll certainly help him out when I see him.