After our Saturday afternoon sail with "Y-woman" and "Specs", Carol Anne and I were gathered with other sailors under the marina pavillion, staying out of the rain and remarking upon our adventures and the fast-moving weather. For a while, we had whitecaps even within the protected waters of the cove. I had been enjoying a beverage proferred by Highlander, when we all noticed an Official Presence.
Kayak Lady, one of the park service rangers, joined our group and explained her difficulty. The park service boat was in the garage and not immediately available for launch, and she was the only park ranger available to respond to most situations until later in the evening. Yet, the park folks had received reports of two boats in trouble near the southeast corner of the main body of Heron Lake. One was beached and probably okay, but another apparently was stuck aground in shallow water a little ways from shore. Could the sailing club send someone out to check on them?
Highlander prepared his boat (a water-ballast Hunter named Highlander), with Skidmark and Domebuilder joining him in the cockpit and me on the bow. The winds had by then moderated, but the rain was still drizzling, limiting visibility. We motored out the Narrows to the main body of the lake and proceeded south, soon sighting a boat in a cove near the appropriate corner of the lake.
As we approached, we had to stop and back off when we ran into water only a foot deep yet a few hundred feet from shore. Reefs and sandbars of silty mud with some cobblestones barred the most direct way into the cove. We had to edge closer to the eastern shore to find deeper water, where we could carry 4-1/2 or 5 feet minimum. Fortunately, the water-ballast Hunter 26 had nothing worse than kick-up rudders to run into the bottom with the centerboard already up, the bottom was visible once it got really shallow, and I was poking a boathook down into the water to let us know if we got into anything too shallow.
We approached cautiously to within about seventy-five feet, then threw a cushion attached to a hundred-foot towline. The boat's operator, D, explained that his wife, K, was disabled and down below. They had just recently purchased the Venture 22 and the sudden change in weather had been too much for them, blowing them out of control into the corner of the lake. The boat had a crank-up centerboard, but the rudder had carved a furrow into the shallow mud, trapping the boat firmly. D had been afraid to climb overboard to try to work on the rudder, fearing that he'd sink into the soft mud and be unable to re-board his boat without K being able to do anything to help him.
After several attempts at freeing the Venture, and having a knot come undone on the Venture at one point and having to re-throw the line (I got to where I could have the line brush right along the Venture's forestay), we were able to shift the grounded Venture around and D was able to unpin his rudder. By having D move his weight around on the bow, and applying pressure on the towline from the Hunter, we were able to free the boat and back out into deeper water. Then we moved the towline to the Hunter's stern and towed the Venture out of the main body of the lake, up the Narrows, and to the boat ramp courtesy dock. D and K were grateful.
Later, Carol Anne, Tad, and I left the marina pavillion and reported on what our group had accomplished to the park superintendent. We then visited the boat ramp, where D and K had retrieved their boat and were putting it away in the mast storage ramp. The experience of running out of control and becoming hopelessly grounded had been especially traumatic for K, but the response of fellow sailors helped soften the blow and give D and K the chance to look forward to better times. We also suggested that, in the future, K would be very welcome to hang out at the marina with the sailing gang while D played out on the water.
The next day, Sunday, when we arrived at the marina late that morning, a "thank you" gift was waiting for the crew of Highlander... a couple of bottles of wine for all to enjoy.