Mermaid Dave’s mission was to take us on a boat ride. He arrived at the Captain’s Table early in the afternoon, tying his boat up to the pilings on the side deck. We got there several hours later. By then, Dave was doing pretty well with that Popeye grin, his hands waving about saying more than his words could.
Then he remembered the boat was about out of gas. It came down to get some gas or cancel the cruise. Jeff, who no longer lives around here, came to the rescue, and with ten dollars of Dave’s money, he vaulted the rail and dropped over the side into the boat, seven or eight feet or so below. He untied the line, started the motor and took off in a quest for gas.
Now Dave’s boat was a no-nonsense fishing boat or oystering boat or anything but a pleasure-craft. It was an open boat, hand built, with a sturdy wooden frame surrounded by many layers of fiberglass. In short, much like a torpedo in the wrong hands, it could be a dangerous weapon.
Jeff, who grew up around here, was no novice when it came to boats. But, as he roared away from the deck with several of us watching, his cap flew from his head landing several yards behind in the water. Jeff slowed the boat turning to the left in a wide circle coming near the City Dock, and in true cowboy fashion, reached over the side to scoop up the cap as the boat went by.
Guess what? Now Jeff and the cap were in the water several yards behind the boat which was still circling slowly to the left. Jeff was swimming toward the boat as if to lasso it, and every time it made a pass in that ever-widening circle, Jeff would try to grab hold and remount the boat.
By now, the side deck of the Captain’s Table and the City Dock were lined with people watching the rodeo. Not far from the end of the dock were two sailboats at their moorings. Sailboats are not known for having armored hulls, and the ever-widening circle of Dave’s boat took that dangerous weapon closer and closer. Dave’s comment: “Hey man, it’s gotta run outa gas sometime.”
Two men with white hats came to the rescue, jumping in their truck and racing around Dock Street to the City Marina. A couple of minutes later, just as Jeff had given up on mounting his steed, the men in the white hats came flying around the corner in a commandeered boat.
Ignoring Jeff completely, they went for Dave’s boat. The captain pulled beside the still circling dangerous weapon and his mate jumped the gap to the boat. Jeff swam wearily back to the Captain’s Table. The crowd cheered wildly. What a rodeo.
The sailboats were saved. Dave’s boat was saved. The guys in the white hats returned for a round of free beers. The boat ride was cancelled. Jeff’s cap was lost. Jeff’s pride was mortally wounded. But as he climbed back up and over the rail with his head hung down looking like a drowned rat, he was treated to another round of applause and a few free beers as well.
Sometimes these impromptu rodeos are too much to handle, so I think I’ll go back out there looking for Trouble in Cedar Key.