Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"The sea was angy that day my friends..."

In a quest for my first duck yesterday, I ended up having the scare of my life. As stories of this nature generally do, it all started innocently enough. As we were grabbing all the gear from the truck, we heard shots on the beach. Walked through the woods just in time to see a fellow hunter's dog executing a very impressive retrieve about half way out into the harbor.

Took up our station on the break wall and proceeded to watch thousands of birds flying well out of range. The few that did come in for a look were too high for a shot. The wind was howling like mad and the temperature had dropped significantly over the course of two hours. We were starting to think about bailing when finally a small diver duck flew into our spread. I whiffed on the first two shots, but the third found it's mark. Just like that I had my first duck.

Or so I thought. The bird was 15-20 feet out from the break wall, and the water was relatively calm. Without much thought, we dropped in the little ten foot piece of Styrofoam that was our vessel, I jumped in and started paddling out for what I was sure would be an easy retrieve...

Within the first minute I realized I wasn't getting the bird. As soon as a I'd cleared the wind break from the wall, one of those gusts that had been ripping across the harbor caught me and began pulling me towards the outer harbor. Paddling as hard as I could did little to help, and it became evident I wasn't getting back to where I started. That's when shit got real.

I was heading right for a gap between one break wall and the next, a gap that lead out to the big lake where I could see ten-footers cresting over the foundation of the lighthouse. My only chance to avoid those swells was to make it to that outer break wall and hang tight until someone could get to me. I bellowed to John, "CALL THE COASTGUARD!" and turned the boat to face the outer wall. After the longest minute of my life, the boat banged up against the wall and I was able to stumble out and sprawl on a rock. At that point I did what any true blogger would do: I did my best not to get blown off my perch and snapped a few pictures to aid in the telling of my story.
Ten minutes later I was in the cabin of a coastguard boat wondering how the hell things had gone south so quickly. I was cold, wet, sore, and embarrassed, and I'm sure a pretty pitiful sight, but I was happier than hell not to be sitting on that break wall. Thanks very much to the Fairport Harbor station of the U.S. Coast Guard for picking up another idiot, you guys rock.

So I "almost died" and "my first duck was almost my last" and all that jazz. All I can say is Budweiser never tasted so good!
Lessons learned: Always wear a life jacket, and if you're going duck hunting, it's probably a good idea to take your Labrador retriever with you...


  1. Jim,

    First I am glad to hear you are safe. Second, I am starting to think you should stick to fishing and blogging...

    I guess we know what you'll be thankful for this year.

  2. Scary stuff my man, be safe, happy turkey day!

  3. Uh, ya, I'll just keep fishing thank you very much. Glad you made it out ok.

    Happy Thanksgiving
    The Average Joe Fisherman