Riding out the storm

I have often fished in a gentle rain, and sometimes the rain even stirs up the fishing, but I will not fish when there is lightning. The risk is too great, but more than once I have been caught out there and wished I was safe at home.

Barb and I, with our friends Ken and Darlene Walls once got caught while on a kayak trip paddling around Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky. It was a fun trip despite the oppressive heat and high humidity that we dealt with each day.

Nights were spent in our tiny backpacker tents, and meals consisted of Mountain House freeze-dried food. There are no commercial businesses on Land Between the Lakes, so all our accommodations were what we could stow in our kayaks. I’ll bet that by now you ladies are wishing your husbands would take you on a wonderful cruise like that. But wait, it gets even better.

We had been paddling and camping for about a week, when the sky began to look threatening. What to do? Well, the only thing we could do was beach the boats, and pitch the tents. We just made it before the storm hit.

At first the cool breeze felt good after a hot day of paddling. Then the trees started to groan and cry under the wind’s relentless onslaught.

The waves on the nearby lake built up and it sounded like surf smacking against the shore. It was a little scary, but I felt it would not last so Barb and I crawled into our tent and waited. Then the lighting hit.

Our little nylon tent shuttered under the wind’s fury, and I have never seen lightning so bright and constant. It was like a thousand electronic flash guns going off together. It was so bright inside the tent that I could have read a newspaper. I don’t know what Ken and Darlene were doing, but Barb and I were not sleeping, and our eyes were wide open.

Finally, as all good things must end, so must bad things. By dawn the storm was gone, and a whippoorwill’s cheery song actually woke us to a new, fresh morning. All we now needed to do was paddle into some rather high waves, but we made it. By the time our trip was over we had paddled from Kentucky Lake across the Barkley Canal and into Lake Barkley

That was not the last lightning storm we would experience during our years of boating, but it was intense, and thereafter I have had a healthy respect for Mother Nature’s scary light show. I’ve also had respect for crazy Ben Franklin standing amidst lightning flying a kite just to see if he could get shocked.

So how do we keep from getting caught out on the lake when a storm arises? It is a good idea to check the weather to see if they are predicting bad weather, but they are often wrong. I have sat on the dock, because the weather man or woman has told me that a storm is in the area and boating could be dangerous.

Then we had what I call bluebird weather and I kicked myself for missing a good day’s fishing. But that is better than getting blown off the water.

When we sailed Lake Erie I depended more on NOAA’s near shore forecast as it was more up to date, but that could also be misleading. One evening we set sail for Port Stanley Canada and the NOAA prediction was for scattered showers.

At 0400 the next morning we were in a Lake Erie squall line with waves up to 14 feet, and winds peaking at 35 knots. One sail blew out and we fought this maelstrom for over 12 hours before we made it to our port on the Ashtabula River.

Our experiences prove that no matter how careful you are storms can sometimes come out of nowhere. All you can do is to follow the US Coast Guard’s motto. “Semper Paratus” and be “Always Ready.” Enjoy your boating summer and please be safe.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.50/week.

Subscribe Today