All summer Mac has spent countless hours trying to coax our 26 year old Johnson motor on the dinghy back to life. It would run but bogged down under any kind of load. He would think he had the problem solved only to take the it out and return to Pelican dejected once more. So finally we agreed it was time for a new engine so we could have a dinghy that actually runs! After much research and many reviews he decided on a Yamaha and found what he wanted at a good price up the road in Beaufort at Sea Island Marina We left the dingy there for three weeks while we road-tripped west. Fast forward to the day we picked it up and that’s where this story begins.
We got my cousin to run us up to the dealership. They dropped the boat in at the Beaufort city ramp and off we went. It was an amazing morning. Blue sky, big puffy clouds, perfect. No reason we couldn’t be across Port Royal Sound and at the Boathouse on Hilton Head by lunch, right? Wrong!
The run across to Hilton Head is about 35 miles. We scooted down the Beaufort River past Parris Island at a nice comfortable clip but were beginning to get tossed and sprayed a bit more than I had anticipated as we looked west. The wind was not predicted to be this strong and white caps were beginning to form. Just as I was starting to get tense about the big water ahead the engine bogged down to idle speed. I looked back at Mac in confusion and clearly he returned the look. That’s when I saw the red light at the base of the engine. I pointed it out to him. Oil light. What is going on here? This is a brand new Yamaha!
Off to the left was a cluster of homes fairly distant on the shore, many with docks jutting out into the sound. Mac chose to limp over to the longest dock to investigate the problem. Of coarse it had a sign on it “Private dock, no trespassing. ” Of course we ignored that. A quick discovery followed. The inside of the engine cover was soaked in oil and the cap to the oil reservoir was laying in the bottom of the engine. Someone at the dealership had neglected to put the cap back on after completing the 20 hour servicing required by Yamaha. Lovely. Now what?
We tied off the Lil Baba and walked up to the house. This guy’s pier was easily 200 yards long. Mac walked up onto the screened porch and knocked. I was trailing behind him offering that we could Uber to an auto zone for more oil since I had my phone with me. Since no one answered our knock we proceeded around to the front of the house only to see we were on a shell and gravel road. No Uber was coming out here.
Mac was now on the phone to Sea Island Marine where he had bought the motor. They were mortified that this had occurred and assured him that they could drive to us in thirty minutes. Google maps helped us discover that we were on St Helena Island in a tiny community called Land’s End. I spotted the lights of a John Deer four wheeler down the road and managed to wave a man down. He was clearly a local gent surprised to see strangers standing on his road. Mac explained our dilemma to the local with the dealership on hold on the cell. Off the guy went assuring us he had some oil for us just around the bend.
Meanwhile, the homeowner, whose driveway we were standing in, came out of his shed. I introduced myself and told him we were trespassing on his dock because we were in distress. He introduced himself as Beau and invited us to come wait inside. He was busy putting things back in order after lashing down for Hurricane Francis. We offered our help but he declined it and led us through the house and out to the porch
The good part of this story is that I felt like I had just walked into the Anne Rivers Siddons novel, Low Country, which is what I happened to be reading this week. The home was exactly as I pictured the one that Caro, the heroin in the novel, loves so much. The setting, the layout, the decor the sights and sounds, all seemed to mirror what was in my mind’s eye. It was rather surreal. The house looks out over the Port Royal Sound to the west and is nestled in a secluded grove of stately oaks and tall ancient pines. Spanish moss dances from every oak tree whispering in the breezes off the water. From the heart wood floors to the open high ceilings with their massive beams the home enveloped us with its low country charm.
So I have this pattern of recurring dreams. They all involve houses; big, small, old , new, familiar, unknown…you name it, I’ve dreamed about it. I can’t really explain it at all. Several times a week I’m dreaming about being in a new and interesting house that is completely unfamiliar to me. This house could have been one of those. It feels familiar. Feels special.
As we sat on the porch waiting on the neighbor to return with the promised oil Beau asks us ” What are you in out there? I don’t even see a boat.” He had a large center console in a lift on the opposite side of the dock from where our pathetic little 14 foot skiff was tied. He continues “We never go out if there are white caps on this water.” He continued , “My wife hates when it’s rough. It’s just not worth it.” Gulp! We still had to get across this sound in that insignificant little boat with its new-but-limping motor.
Our local hero soon returns with two quarts of , not just oil, but Yama-lube. There is a God! Not only did he deliver but he refused the cash we offered. Good Samaritan for sure!
With oil in hand Beau walked us out of his lovely home and down the massive pier. Mac quickly put the oil in and started her up. Handshakes, thank you’s, and well wishes followed and we tossed the lines.
We weren’t but a few minutes from the dock when we began to get broadsided by 3-4 foot swells. Hilton Head was in the distance but the gaping Port Royal Sound was determined to make us work for it! I was not happy! It may have been a beautiful day for a boat ride and the winds were predicted to be under five knots but clearly something was not as predicted. We were being tossed like a cork. I have had three children by natural childbirth and never raised my voice in pain or fear. On this random Tuesday September morning, on what was intended to be a pleasant adventure, I will admit I cried out at one point in cold fear of capsizing. Mac was unflappable but the next hour was ugly! I’m not bragging on him, just thankful he has skills. He shouldn’t have been so anxious to get that dang dinghy back to the boat. The dealership offered to tow it to HHI and put her in the water there, but no!, Mr McLaughlin had to have his new motor TODAY! You live and learn. As for me, I could have refused to ride over to Beaufort that day and I would have avoided the fearful crossing but I also would have missed the enchanting house in Land End that made me feel like I had walked into one of my dreams or, at the very least the novel I have been reading.
“The good, the bad, and the ugly” as they say. That day we had a little of each. Thankfully we are still here to tell about it.
This post might have been published weeks ago but the distraction of storms has had us focused elsewhere. This week Hurricane Michael demolished areas of our Florida panhandle that are particularly close to our hearts. Mac and I once toyed with the idea of buying a ramshackle bar we had come across in Mexico Beach. We were reeling from our Katrina losses when we took the road trip that led us there. Now these communities are suffering.
Ironically this post touches on my love of a home. Many on the panhandle now have none. Our prayers are with those who are hurting. We will try to get back there to assist as soon as we can. Michael was pure devastation to those in his way. All of us that live across the north gulf are saying ” There, but for the grace of God, go I”