The ice cover had grown; his skiff’s bow glistened white with ice a foot thick in places.
His outboard was sheeted with ice; ice coated the flywheel. The starter rope was frozen, and it wouldn’t fit in the starting pulley.
With his uncovered hands, he worked his starter rope into strands. He said a silent prayer and yanked. The outboard chuffed into life with a puff of blue smoke.
The ice-burdened skiff plowed into the oncoming waves. The boat barely maintained its buoyancy. But it was moving.
This was Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 17, 1958. The Old Man was at last headed home.
* * *
His ordeal had begun a day earlier when a neighbor had worriedly told him, “The young fellow is still out on his boat.”
“Call the Coast Guard,” The Old Man said.
“Just don’t you go out.”
Helmer Aakvik, age 62, figured he’d make a quick run out to the nets. Probably, The Kid’s outboard had stopped running. Gas problems again.
He’d have to hurry. The temperature was about six degrees above zero and dropping. A storm was coming on from the northwest.
* * *
The Kid had not been at the nets, and The Old Man had continued his search. When he was about eight miles out, he let his engine idle atop a wave for one last look around. There was no sign of Carl Hammer.
The waves whistled as they roared past The Old Man’s 17-foot open skiff. He’d never heard them this noisy before. It was time to head back toward shore.
His roaring outboard spluttered, then died. The Old Man turned to his outboard, mounted on the transom.
It was white with ice.
Again and again, he tried to start it until he was panting from the exertion. The elderly Lockport had been splashed with spray that had frozen.
His spare engine, a newer 14-horsepower, two-cylinder Johnson two-cycle, lay in the boat’s bottom. He took the old outboard off and installed the Johnson.
He yanked hard on the starter cord, but there was not even an encouraging whuff or slight backfire.
His most dependable, newest engine did not start. It had rolled around in the icy bilge water too long.
* * *
A rogue wave reared over the boat, swamping it. His boat was riding dangerously low in the water.
The old Lockport had been his fishing partner for many years. With a last farewell, he threw it overboard.
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