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Warren Miller’s World

Store boat, grab skis

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It took my wife and I almost a week to round up all of our ski gear for our annual four-month ski vacation. My job is to ski with friends and members of The Yellowstone Club, where we live right at the bottom of the chairlift during the winter. I also like to do a little work while I’m there, some writing and some drawing, so I have to pack a lot of supplies.

For us, spending the winter at the Yellowstone Club is the equivalent of completely moving for the winter. I load all of the different kinds of ski equipment, boots, poles and clothes in our trailer, along with my art supplies, computers, clothes, peanut butter and drawing board. I am beginning to realize that I am a little nuts; I go to all of this trouble just so I can ski for the winter. Many of my friends have long ago given up powder snow and skiing for the heat and golf of Palm Springs, but I know that I will never be able to give up looking for the freedom of making turns in untracked powder snow.

This year, I had our luggage trailer all packed and ready to go when I remembered that I had to haul our 20-foot boat out of the water for the winter. A month ago, the gear shift cable on the boat broke, so when I came up to the dock I had to judge when to turn off the ignition key and coast up to tie up. I couldn’t get the engine out of gear or into reverse and I didn’t have the time to fix it. I had forgotten all about it because my mind has shifted from boating to skiing.

I couldn’t leave for four months without taking care of the boat, so I borrowed a trailer to drag the boat out of the water. It was a windy, rainy and very cold day. In fact, about 200 vertical feet higher up on the mountain on our island it even snowed.

There is a boat ramp that belongs to a friend of ours down by the pass, so I hauled the trailer over there and backed it down into the water far enough so that the water was up to the rear tires of the car. It was kind of a dumb thing to do, but I knew what would come next and I didn’t have my waterproof boots available.

Then I walked back to our house, about a third of a mile away. I started up the boat with the broken gearshift cable, shoved it away from the dock, hunkered down behind the engine and shoved the one-inch-long lever forward that actually shifts the gears. It was very windy and raining hard as I headed for the trailer. I tried to judge exactly when to shut off the engine so I could just coast up onto the trailer.

I misjudged the wind, current and engine turn-off time and only coasted about halfway up onto the trailer. So, I had to climb up on the bow and lower myself down onto the trailer and stand barefoot in ice-cold water.

Balancing myself on the trailer, I walked forward, got the cable loose from the trailer, hooked it up and winched the boat the last eight feet up onto the trailer. Now I had to step off of the trailer onto the concrete ramp into about a foot and a half of water. This is when my Alzheimers kicked in and I forgot about the slimy ramp moss and my bare feet skidded right out from under me.

I was lying on my back in 43-degree water, in the rain and wind when I heard a voice holler, "Who gave you permission to use this ramp?" It was the wife of the caretaker of the ramp and I had neglected to phone her husband to let him know I would be using it. I was in no position to explain.

I was now soaking wet from head to foot. I rolled over onto my hands and knees and tried to decide whether I should climb into my car and soak the cloth seat covers or run back to my house, change into dry clothes and come back to retrieve the boat and trailer. Since it was only 38 degrees, I climbed, sopping wet, into the car and drove home. Before I got there, however, I had to park the boat and trailer.

I unhitched the boat and trailer next to my other trailer loaded with our ski stuff for the winter and drove the rest of the way home. By the time I got home, I was as cold as I used to be when skiing before they invented nylon parkas. I shivered into our new living room and stood right in front of the fireplace until I thawed out.

What was my lesson from all of this? I learned that I need to put my brain in gear before I put my boat in gear and that boating season should be complete long before January.

Now it’s really time to ski.

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