Jim Buchanan

Daddy was never much for boat fishing, as far as I can tell. I imagine he did it a few times, but I don’t ever recall seeing anyone towing a boat into our driveway.

For Daddy it was creek fishing, occasionally throwing a line from the banks of the Tuck, or a seasonal favorite of his, hitting the convergence of the Little Tennessee at Fontana when the fish were running in spring.

Creek fishing had some drawbacks. There were places where the water got so deep you tended to quit wading and start floating, or sinking, which sort of takes the relaxing contemplation out of the whole affair. And there were spots, and there were quite a few of them in Savannah and its tributaries, where the rocks were so slick you couldn’t stand up. There was a stretch of Pumpkintown I slipped and fell in so many times it just flat beat me up. Eventually, I gave up, rolled to the bank and called it a day.

Still, while creek fishing has hazards, boat fishing has one additional hazard: Boats can sink, in a truly astounding number of ways.

A friend of mine purchased his first boat, a beat-up old bass rig that was older than both of us put together, and to christen it we headed to Glenville. By the time we pulled toward the dock it was raining so hard you couldn’t tell where the sky started and the lake ended. He was hell-bent to test out his boat so he backed it down the ramp, got it in the water and we pulled off to park.

When we came back it was gone.

At first, we thought it’d been stolen, but eventually we saw a murky boat-shaped outline in a few feet of water. We figured it was raining so hard it filled up and sank. After we pulled it out, turned out we hadn’t put the drain plug in and sank the boat on its maiden voyage.

A rookie error.

I saw a story in the National Interest last week about another rookie error that sank a $3 billion dollar boat. OK, not a boat, but a submarine, which are in fact designed to sink, but not in the manner in which this one, the pride of the Indian navy, did.

The INS Arihant was sinking like it was designed to when someone noticed it was sinking in a way it wasn’t designed to do, i.e. the way a submerging submarine starts to sink when you’ve left the hatch open and seawater is pouring in by the ton. This rookie error put a nuclear-missile submarine out of commission for at least 10 months.

I didn’t witness the most dramatic sinking I’ve heard tell of. That one came courtesy of an old pressman friend of mine who’d worked for a while at a paper in Louisiana.

He and a buddy were out in a bayou, miles from where they’d put in, fishing and taking it as easy as they could, considering they had to keep a pretty good eye out for moccasins and gators. Because of those hazards my friend’s partner was strapped for the ride, carrying a .45 on his hip.

As these stories tend to unfold, a huge moc dropped from a tree limb right into the boat.

My pressman friend barely had time to register the snake, see his friend panic and get out “Hey, don’t…” BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM.

His buddy had punched five fist-sized holes in the belly of the boat. There was no gentle filling up with water, it dropped like a bag of hammers and settled on the swamp floor about four feet down.

He missed the snake.

(He also lost his gun).

I’m sure the snake was nonetheless badly traumatized and went to seek comfort with its large extended family, hanging from branches nearby.

My friend said it took hours to wade out of there.

I’ll stick to the creek side, thank you.

Buchanan is special projects editor for the Sylva Herald.