It’s amazing what moms do to help create lasting memories for their children. It’s spring break which means I scrambled to put a quick vacation together for my kids. I didn’t have much time I could take off but I knew I wanted us to do something. After arranging then rearranging a few things, we finally settled on a two-night getaway somewhere near Jacksonville. We’ve settled on Tampa. I booked a hotel right on the Tampa Bay perfect for boating and fishing which was our plan.
We have a quiet first night. Had dinner at Datz Tampa where we ate a “Datz a favorite” burger with fried mac-n-cheese “buns” and loaded house made chips.
I reserved a pontoon boat, the Party Barge 21, for 10 a.m. the next morning and already gave them my credit card to book the entire thing. “Don’t be late” says the Boat Guy. We head to bed early with plans to go to the grocery store to buy Cuban sandwiches and empanadas then stop at the bait and tackle store to get fresh bait.
We woke up late because, well, Murphy’s Law. We race to the nearest grocery store which turned out to be 15 minutes away and forever miles in the opposite direction. There are no empanadas. Realized I should have just stopped at any nearby deli to buy our lunch but hindsight is 20/20.
Finally get to the tackle store, another 15 minutes away.
We get to boating dock late and already stressed out. Praying we weren’t being docked for our tardiness. Boat Guy tells me he was going to call me to tell me the weather radar wasn’t looking too good and thought we should give it a few hours.
Decide to shake off this morning’s hectic hour and heed his advice. Back in our hotel room, all we can see is clear skies. We wait an hour anyway. Finally, we head back to the docks with all our fishing gear and food in-tow again. Boat Guy says he sees a “big cloud” heading our way but thinks we would have enough time to see it coming and head back.
Excited, we hop on the boat and I get my quick boating lesson. Way too much information in just five minutes. I already knew I was going to forget everything he taught me. Before you know it, we are in open water. The weather is (temporarily) perfect. I focus my attention on just getting us to where he said we could fish. The kids are putting together the fishing gear but I see my nine-year old is not at all feeling the experience and trying to be brave for the team.
Soon I see a bunch of green and red markers which was what Boat Guy told me I needed to be really careful of as they indicate the depth of the water and “no matter what,” I did not want to get the propeller caught in the sand or “up on some rocks.” I began doubting myself and instead of making sure the red markers were on my right “at all times going out,” I maneuver so they are on my left. I ask my 14-year-old to check the water and he starts yelling something about sand and rocks. I look down and all I see is sand and rocks about 5 inches below the boat.
My 9 year-old starts panicking, my 14 year-old is flinging his arms everywhere, my daughter is telling everyone to calm down and its mayhem aboard the Party Barge 21 Pontoon. I’m reading the map the Boat Guy gave us and none of it makes sense. I turn the engine off, bring the propeller up and wait for sense to come back to me. It doesn’t.
I try to Google the answer only to find myself more confused. Then I call the Boat Guy who is now a woman and I can’t hear a thing she’s telling me with all the mayhem behind me. I threaten the kids with their lives and they finally keep calm enough for me to get the directions– red markers to the right, green on the left.
I sit there and wait for something to happen and for Jesus to fix it. We drift to about a foot of water, I lower the propeller back down, and we finally get to deep enough water where I can turn the engine back on and get to navigable waters.
Through tears, my nine-year old has declared this his worst vacation ever. Now the 14 year-old is enjoying watching his brother suffer and is having a good laugh telling him “man up like the rest of us.”
A torturous 15 minutes later, we make it to what looks like a decent fishing spot but not to where Boat Guy had told us to go. We successfully lower the anchor without losing it or a foot, and drop our lines. Ten minutes later, the one boat that was near us turns its engine on and leaves. I look up and a big black cloud is (sure enough) heading our way.
Takes us about 10 minutes to pull up the anchor and turn the boat around to head back to the dock. Big Black Cloud is literally rolling in right behind us. The rain starts coming down bringing my 9 year-old back to praying to Jesus and begging to be teleported back to the hotel. I grab a towel and place it around my head because I’ll be damned if I’m going to get my freshly done hair wet in all this mayhem.
A boat of fisherman passes us telling us to “hurry to safety” pointing to the cloud. Twenty more minutes of mayhem later, the phone rings and it’s The Boat Guy telling me he’s coming to get me if I’m not on my way back. Thankfully, we’re turning the corner to the dock. The rain is now driving down and wind has picked up.
The little cover the pontoon had sounds like it’s going to fly off. We make it to shore and Boat Guy is waving frantically because it’s now lightning. We get to shore, my 9 year-old grabs one little bag of the 203 that we took on the boat and tries to jump to safety only to fall-off the boat and backwards into the water. My 14 year-old jumped out grabbing one of three fishing poles and our Cubans, leaving us all behind as he high-tails to safety. My daughter looks at me with her wild eyes and I tell her to grab something and go. She jumps out, loses her shoe, and runs to shore.
I’m left behind with Boat Guy, a towel on my head, and everything else. Boat Guy is trying to help me grab everything else and then lightning strikes again. I grab the cooler while Boat Guy ties up the boat and I make to safety clothes soaked.
Back at the dock, I take the soaked towel off my head and I start cracking up. I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes.
When we finally all make it to the hotel room, we start cracking up. The mayhem was all too much. We laughed and laughed and laughed.
Did they have a good time? Probably not. Did we make memories? Yes.
I didn’t get any good pictures of us on the boat, didn’t get to do a family selfie, or Instagram us having fun because I don’t think any one had fun. Still, we created a story to share over and over again.
We stayed in the room for a few hours while the storm passed. I had a cocktail, we ate our cuban sandwiches, the end.