On Saturday, July 3rd, 1966, (nearly 48 years ago), the closest available weather station to Kent Narrows on Kent Island, MD, was at Stevensville, a distance of 2.2 miles, 3.5 kilometers, or, 1.9 nautical miles. The historic weather conditions reported (and concur all too well within my still vivid memory) that the thermostat hit a whopping 100.9° Fahrenheit in the afternoon with only a light breeze and small wavelets on the bay from a wind of only 6.2 knots, or about 7 miles per hour. When we were sitting in the long line of bumper-to-bumper vehicles trying to cross the Kent Island Bridge at 10 a.m. in the morning, the temperature outside the car was already 86.7°. But imagine four young adults inside an unairconditioned 1966 Simca, with a loaded interior, a roof that barely held a small aluminum boat tied atop at the front and back bumpers, a trunk that had an older outboard motor, an army blanket, four bamboo pools that had come from recently purchased rolls of carpet. We thought we might have to use the blanket and poles to provide shade if we needed it, and a couple of fishing poles. We also had some coolers stuffed with food from the frig and four large dinner plates and regular tableware because we were so poor in those days that we couldn’t afford to buy paper- and plasticware products for the picnic. Although the image of a similar boat shows oars or rowboat paddles, believe me when I tell you that we had none that day! Now, the first paragraph above somewhat sets the stage for the events that we were about to experience on that holiday weekend—but, not quite.
The night before, the guys, while downing a few beers, tested the old outboard motor by placing it on the side of a 33-gallon galvanized trash can. After several of these beers, the guys demonstrated to us how the outboard engine was ready to roar the next morning.
Our group of four included my childhood friend since we were toddlers, Georgeanne. Georgeanne is 5’2″ tall, weighed all of about 100 pounds wet. Georgeanne’s skin is very fair, like mine, and her hair is naturally strawberry blonde. Georgeanne’s fiancé was Jim, and like my husband, Bob, (of 18 months or so), was around 6′ tall and had some amount of Native American Indian blood in their ancestral lineage. So their natural skin color was olive-toned and they were well-tanned already–unlike Georgeanne and me who were a ghostly pale white and the only color we ever got on our skin was sunburn that turned into more freckles! And, no, we didn’t know the dangers of the UV rays back then, and, if we did, we didn’t have/couldn’t afford sunblock or tanning lotion.
Did I forget to mention that this was one of my first adventures out, following a several-month-bout with morning sickness? Even without the 4-month baby bump, I was no swimmer and there were no lifesaving vests for any of us. Here’s where we might say the real story starts to unfold.
Finally, we four high-spirited young adventurers reached Kent Narrows, where Jim’s mom had gifted him some land in the swampy area adjacent the bay. We girls got the gear ready to board and the guys walked the boat to the shoreline. They placed the motor on the rear of the small aluminum boat and we all hopped in and off we went.
Already, it had been a grueling trip and we were ready to have fun, except, my body was already not coping very well with the heat and humidity. So, we all pitched in and placed the bamboo poles upright in the oarlocks and draped our old army blanket atop the bamboo poles and wrapped twine around the four corners of the blanket where it covered each pole. The old army blanket sagged but provided us at least some shade, and, also absorbed some additional heat! I think we looked like something out Huck Finn or Robinson Crusoe tales, except we had an old tattered and worn army green blanket and they probably had palms from local trees. Geesh, I sure wish we had had cell phones with cameras back in those days. Our photo of us aboard our aluminum life raft would very likely have gone viral on Instagram or Facebook!
With all aboard, everybody was finally winding down (except me). Georgeanne, Jim, and Bob decided it was time to lay back and take a nap after all of the activities involved in getting us there and afloat in the water. Periodically, I would shake one of the more seasoned sailor’s and ask them if they thought we were drifting too far from shore. Repeatedly, they told me, don’t be ridiculous and to just sit back and relax. After about an hour of tapping shoulders and asking how far out we were, they all sat up and decided to take me seriously. Low and behold, our boat had drifted out into the channel. It was then that they decided we should start the motor and get us back closer to shore. Well, the outboard engine that worked when tested in the 33-gallon trash can, didn’t even sputter when the guys tried starting it. Here we were, the temp was nearly 101°, we had drifted into the channel of the Chesapeake Bay, we had no paddles, no oars, and only tableware. Just about this time, we see a very expensive speedboat with other young people headed our way. We all tried to signal them, but I think they gave us and our rig one look and decided we were probably a bunch of druggies that they wanted nothing to do with. Next, came an elderly couple in a small dingy just cruising slowly around the bay, and they too, paid us no never mind. So now what were we to do?
Well, our only other choice for the moment was to take out the dinner plates and use them as paddles. All of us got busy paddling, but we were making little headway. Petite Georgeanne, then decides that she’s the best swimmer. She ties a six-foot rope made of hemp to her waist, leaps from the seat of the boat and starts swimming off the front bow, tugging us and the boat as she goes. The guys found this just too embarrassing. Jim, being the next biggest and muscular guy, wanting to save his fair maiden and friends decides that it’s his turn. Jim, though, instead of diving from the seat of the boat, just jumps in feet first. Much to everyone’s surprise, the water only came up to Jim’s knees. And that’s when we all belly laughed.
The day had been an unfortunate but great adventure, but the hot 2-hour ride home was a very quiet one. When we got back to our apartment still no one had said a word. We just all collapsed in beds and sleeping bags in our wonderfully air-conditioned apartment. It was months after Georgeanne and Jim left before we next talked. And, none of us was willing to bring up our holiday adventure ever again. The females blamed the males for the outboard motor not working properly. Jim was just downright embarrassed and never spoke with us of this day again. I was sick and angry that the events of day had gotten so out of hand, especially since I had warned the others. And, Bob–he was just Bob and seems to have taken it all in stride as just another day.