This all started when Hubby and a good friend decided that they needed a camping boat to take to the hunting lease. What began as a search for an old boat on which to build a cabin with a couple of bunks soon turned into an attachment to an old sunken houseboat, which we promptly dubbed “The African Queen.”
Hubby spotted this mess down an overgrown street along a wharf in Leeville, Louisiana as the two of them scouted the bayou in search of a treasure. (Maybe they were looking for sunken treasure?) Since the boat wasn’t easily seen from the highway, they truly saw this as a sign from God that they had found a prize. It didn’t matter that the boat was sitting on the bottom of the bayou, submerged in three feet of water. The two of them were not the least bit discouraged by this revelation. They quickly set about locating pumps and huge marine batteries to pump out the boat in an attempt to raise it from its watery grave, which I might add it seemed to be enjoying.
After much discussion and subsequent daily trips to Leeville (an hour trip) to exchange batteries and check on The African Queen, they made an offer to the owner. They just knew that if the owner would accept their offering price, it would be yet another sign that this was meant to be.
Meanwhile, I had to accompany Hubby on one of the trips to exchange the batteries and to continue pumping the water out of the boat. True to form, the adventure was straight out of Lucy and Ethel.
First, the battery was so heavy I could not even help lift it off of the truck tailgate, much less help haul it to the boat, which, by the way, sat next to a precariously tilting wharf (that Hubby neglected to mention). Hubby managed to carry the battery by himself and then swing it over onto the boat. After the battery was safely ensconced aboard the sunken vessel, he climbed aboard.
Sensing an impending disaster and knowing my help was now needed, I boarded the boat. It was easy to see that Hubby was already formulating a plan as to how we were going to get the battery from the back of the boat to the front where the pump was located. I can only assume, as I didn’t dare ask a question I didn’t want to know the answer to (how did he and his friend get the battery to the front of the boat) that he and his partner in crime had actually carried the battery to the front. Not being strong enough to handle the weight of the battery, I knew carrying it wasn’t going to be an option.
Knowing the battery was too heavy to carry unsupported and sliding it along top the loose railing was not an option, the game plan finally became Hubby pulling the battery along the narrow walkway while I used my foot to keep the other end from sliding off of the boat and into the bayou – all while trying to balance without falling off the boat as none of the hand railings were secure! As I said, that move was straight from one of my Lucy moments. I was desperately trying not to picture myself sliding off of the boat into the murky waters of Bayou Lafourche. My imagination was working overtime! As I had already fallen off of a ladder a few hours earlier and huge bruises were already beginning to form, my confidence at staying on the boat was waining. After quite of bit of pull, slide, pull, slide, we managed to get the battery to the front deck and into position.
It was then I realized that the other battery was in the hull of the boat! Geez! I was thinking, this just keeps getting better and better. Lucille Ball, meet Dennis the Menace! How do you do?! Needless to say, I was freaking out just a little (lot) because Hubby was lowering himself into the dark hole filled with black water. He did have boots on, but the water had gotten pretty high again since the other battery’s power was quickly depleting.
After lots of coaxing (whining) I convinced Hubby to leave the new battery on the deck and just hook it up. If anyone could lift that battery, carry it to the back of the boat and then onto the unstable wharf, then they were welcome to steal it. After finally agreeing, he hooked up the new battery and we began the arduous task of waiting for the water level to recede. Meanwhile, back on the boat deck, the gnats and mosquitoes were beginning to swarm. If you’ve seen South Louisiana insects, you know this is not a good thing. They are HUGE!
After connecting the pump to the new battery, Hubby was anxious to show me around the boat. It didn’t take long to explore the water infested contraption. It was bad. Really, really bad. Did I mention it was really, really bad? Black moldy kind of bad? The Black Lagoon kind of bad?
My husband is a talented carpenter and I’ve seen him turn nothing into something gorgeous, but not even he could resurrect this thing from the dead. The more discussion that ensued, the more horrified I became. The more I looked around, the more certain I was that the owner would have to pay me to take this boat off his hands!
I will be the first to admit, there is nothing more satisfying than taking something worth next to nothing and building it into something great. Our piece of property used to be a junkyard. It’s gorgeous now. I have great foresight and could imagine the inside of this boat (had it NOT been sitting on the bottom of the bayou) taken down to the ribs and completely refurbished. It could indeed be a thing of beauty. But the more conversation I heard going back and forth between Dennis the Menace and his cohort, and the more questions I asked, I realized it would be less work if we just built a boat from scratch like Noah did!
I gleaned from the conversation that IF the patches held and they made it up the bayou (with the pumps going) to a dry dock, the boat needed quite a few ribs replaced. I had questions!
“Patches? What patches?”
“The patches in the hull of the boat (to keep the water out of the boat that was sunk in the bayou).”
“Oh! The patches could blow?”
That was when I began to see the real picture – exactly what was in store. They could possibly raise the boat from its watery grave and begin the trek up the bayou to a dry dock, hopefully without the boat sinking along the way. Okay……Anyone who knows me knows I just have to ask, “What happens if the patches blow and you take on water (I couldn’t bear to say sink)?” “Then we just pull it to the bank and beach it.”
Okay – I laughed. I cackled! I hooted! I was speechless! I may have snorted! Just saying. Because I could just see the scene in my head so vividly. Cohort’s wife and I driving a non-sinking boat pulling The African Queen up the bayou ever so slowly. Dennis the Menace and cohort bailing with tin cans for all they are worth, yelling “Beach it! Beach it!”
It was fun while it lasted – and it lasted just long enough for one of us wives to get a good look at what our husbands were up to! It provided many, many hours of fun and laughter that week between the five of us (our great friend, Father John was in on the fun as well). Oh! But the plans we had for that boat! When I think back, I can see Dennis the Menace and his cohort scheming to get the African Queen up the bayou amid dreams of grandeur and I can’t help but chuckle.
Not long after, and many discussions in between, it was decided that this was not their boat. Although now, Hubby is on a mission to find a houseboat of his own. But, as the saying goes – live and learn – I’ve already begun learning my lessons. Next boat I am taken hostage to see – it will NOT be a sunken treasure.
This boat may have died a watery death but the dream has just begun. Stay tuned as the search for our African Queen continues.
By the way, we plan on a movie night with The African Queen.
It’s just life on the bayou…