In Memory of Dennis M. Drake

Discussion in 'General Amphicar Discussion' started by Al Heath, Sep 6, 2000.

  1. Al Heath
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    Al Heath Guest

    From the archives:

    A Thrilling Misadventure

    Their annual get-away weekend had been planned months in advance. Twenty

    three year old Nancy, a slender pretty brunette with impetuous
    tendencies
    would drive her husband Mike's pride and joy, a 1965 Amphicar the 83
    miles
    to Weir's Beach, NH. Bearded Michael Branagan, three years his wife's
    elder
    and a tad short for his one hundred and ninety pounds, had spent the
    week
    polishing and detailing his treasured flame-red carboat, in preparation
    for
    the Third Annual Lakes Region Antique Boat Show. The white convertible
    top
    was squeaky clean, wide whitewalls gleamed in the morning sunshine, and
    the
    two propellers protruding from the rear were spotless. Nancy climbed
    high
    up into this eccentric but fascinating vehicle and examined the
    cockpit-like
    interior for points off imperfections. This had been her assignment.
    She
    had meticulously cleaned the black crinkle-finish dashboard taking care
    not
    to disturb the Bilge Plug Warning Decal and scoured each white control
    knob.
    The gray and white vinyl seats had been scrubbed until not a spot
    remained.
    Mike's confidence in first prize honors was evident in his almost
    constant
    beguiling Irish smile.
    At last, the day arrived with brilliant sunshine and cotton-candy
    cumulus
    clouds. Packing the limited luggage area proved to be quite a feat. The
    wicker picnic basket, brimming with home cooked goodies, had to be
    carefully
    arranged among the orange life jackets, first-aid kit, battered but
    essential tool box, inflatable life raft and other boating accessories
    occupying the car's front end. "Leave the life jackets behind if you
    must"
    chuckled Mike, "but don't forget the beer." There was no chance she
    would
    leave the life jackets behind.
    At last their journey began. While traveling north on Rte. 93, Nancy,
    with
    some nervous trepidation, tried to make light conversation and enjoy the

    brilliant autumn hues which make new Hampshire a fall tourist Mecca. The

    surprised smiles and gawking stares of passer-byes inspired Mike to
    perform.
    With his nautical cap and bearded grin, the Captain of the ship waved,
    pushed a control stick forward, and the two rear props whirred in the
    wind
    to the delight of the transient audience. As they continued on he spoke,
    as
    if to himself, "I sure hope we can find a smooth boat ramp, or we could
    have
    a problem." Nancy looked at him thinking of her inability to swim and
    dread
    of water. "Maybe we should forget the boat show and just have a picnic."

    Mike glanced at her, winked, and affectionately exclaimed, "Have no fear

    skipper, I wouldn't let this beauty sink." Nancy secretly prayed, her
    only
    hope was that they wouldn't find a suitable boat ramp.
    "Hang on, here we go!" Mike yelled as they drove the Amphicar from the
    street into the boat channel, in second gear with propellers spinning.
    Mike
    and Nancy had donned their kapok jackets and traded seats after what
    appeared to be a suitable access to the lake. The nose of the carboat
    submarined down, down, down or so it seemed. "Oh no" she screamed in
    dread,
    "we're sinking." Just as she exclaimed her terror, a slug of cold water

    rushed over the windscreen and engulfed them. Splash, Squish, Burrrrr,
    the
    little Amphi bobbed like a lobster buoy in a hurricane, but to the
    astonishment of both Nancy and several frenzied onlookers, they were not

    only afloat, but making headway. The little red convertible had
    magically
    become a boat! "Guess that ramp wasn't as smooth as I figured" said
    Mike.
    "We'll have to find a better one to get out." As they eased out of the
    channel into the harbor, a special patrol boat with a bewildered pilot
    approached the buoyant auto. "I'll guide you to the Show Dock and find
    you
    a front row spot" he yelled and shone a beaming smile as he led us to
    the
    dock. Mike, oblivious to his "drowned rat" appearance was lapping up
    the
    hype as the astonished spectators flashed, beeped, and waved their
    approval.
    On the other hand, Nancy, with her drenched brown locks and wet purple
    jersey was a woebegone vision in sloshing sneakers. "Just relax, Hon
    you're doing great and we're almost to the dock." He said patiently
    trying
    to allay her fears. "Everything's OK" And it was for now.
    Mike dropped the fenders and secured the boat to the dock cleats and had
    a
    delightful time explaining the seagoing ability and interesting history
    of
    his toy boatcar. Nancy, meanwhile, enjoyed the feeling of terra-firma,
    under her feet and chatted amiably with the curious crowd. By Four PM
    many
    of the old brass laden steamers and mahogany Chris Crafts began to cast
    off.
    Mike and Nancy decided to follow suit and were assured a suitable ramp
    was
    available in Meredith, "just round the bend."
    After pumping the bilge and checking the hatch locks, the Branagans left
    the
    dock, heading for the Meredith public boat ramp. A few minutes past
    "The
    Broads" the sky became threatening. Ominous dark clouds appeared out of

    nowhere, and it began to drizzle. "No Problem", Mike assured his wife
    as
    they removed the boot, put the top up and switched on the windshield
    wipers.
    A strong wind had blown up and the darkened skies posed imminent danger,
    in
    Nancy's mind at least. "Please Mike, let's wait till the storm passes"
    she
    pleaded in a distressed voice. "We've had enough excitement for today."

    "Now Nance" he said with assurance, "It's only a few miles we'll make it
    no
    sweat, just keep checking that chart."
    The murky, choppy waters of Lake Winnepesaukee stretched before them
    as a
    challenge to be conquered. Bobbing up and down like a giant yo-yo the
    Amphicar traversed the harbor and was soon alone in the middle of the
    channel, with an impending storm moving closer and closer. "Check the
    chart
    for those black channel markers and keep an eye peeled for that ramp. We

    should be seeing it soon." Mike hoped his sweetheart hadn't noticed the
    bilge pump had quit, and his knuckles where turning white. "But this map

    says we're in 160 feet of water and I can't swim," screamed Nancy with
    her
    eyes brimming like the water slapping the bonnet and sides of the car.
    "I
    know we're going to drown!" As if on cue the roar of thunder and a flash
    of
    lightening was seen in the distance, as huge raindrops splattered the
    windshield. Calmly, Mike suggested they roll up the windows as he put
    on
    his Mae West. Nancy had been wearing her's since leaving the dock. The
    Lake
    quickly became a raging bull, charging relentlessly at the toy intruder.

    Nancy's consternation mounted with each swell. She prayed silently for
    their safety, quietly making deals in exchange for safe passage.
    Plodding
    along at about three knots, the trip seemed endless. Even Mike, usually

    serene and unaffected by danger, was beginning to exhibit a nervous
    twitch.
    Abruptly, in the rear view mirror, Mike spotted a large object
    approaching
    on the port side, and leaving in it's trail a six or seven foot, white
    capped wake. He shouted to Nancy to hold on while he maneuvered the
    Amphi
    to ride the wake with the least amount of danger. Our boat rocked side
    to
    side, fore and aft as the mail boat approached. It felt like David
    facing
    Goliath. Neither spoke but both knew that wake was going to be nasty.
    Nancy
    held onto the dashboard for dear life. At that moment the Motor Vessel
    "Mount Washington" reversed her engines amidships to allow the little
    putt-putt to regain it's composure and dampen the wake. The
    unbelieving,
    waving, and cheering passengers crowded the deck to see this weird
    spectacle
    in the turbulent water. Palpitations and sheer panic held Nancy
    suspended,
    as she dared not breathe. Mike, occupied with maintaining some
    semblance of
    calm, navigated his "Baby" with a captain's skill. Just ahead, finally,
    they
    spotted land and several locals waving their arms and applauding. It
    was, at
    last, the boat ramp "just round the bend."
    As the tires of the carboat touched the macadam ramp Mike said " I knew
    we'd
    make it, but maybe we should go to church." He looked across the seat to
    see
    Nancy wiping her eyes, now smiling with such relief. "Remind me to learn
    how
    to swim," she quivered. "Nice sailing Mike." She silently whispered,
    "Thank
    you Lord" and wondered if He would really expect her to keep that
    promise
    of joining the convent.

    This short story was written by Paula Drake over 20 years ago, and based
    on
    an actual experience in August 1977.
     
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