One night, Hugh Hamilton was on the boat, we were drinking beer and preparing for a night out on the town. We left the boat and walked down the dock. The car keys were somehow flung into the air and landed in the water with a small splash. We all looked at each other in horror. John went back to the boat to retrieve a magnet on a string that had the specific purpose of retrieving lost tools or other objects that had been dropped in the bilge of the boat.
He came back, unfurled the string from the magnet and aimed the magnet with precision and let go. It plopped into the water and descended to the bottom of the harbor. There must have been everything from anchors to shopping carts down there.
After the magnet settled on the bottom, John pulled it slowly to the surface.
He reeled in to the dock and at the same time we all saw that the keys had been caught in one cast. We literally exploded in excitement. We simply could not believe it.
It was one of those moments that made you think about God. and love.
A few days after that, John and me experienced what we thought was a near death experience. We had an oxy-acetylene torch burning, to weld some rings together that we were using for halibut gear.
Suddenly, a weld opened up in the acetylene tank and the flame jumped from the nozzle to the leak and a huge flame began to burn out of control.
Black smoke began to fill the wheelhouse and the flame burned hot. In a split second, John and me looked at each other and ran from the boat as fast as we could. We ran down the dock and sought cover from the expected explosion.
It never came. We looked at each other. We looked at the fuel dock that the boat was tied up uncomfortably close to. John looked at me and without saying anything, I knew he was saying that we should run back to the boat and try to put out the fire. He ran toward the boat. In a split second, I realized I could not bear the thought of him dying in this final heroic act, while I stood by and watched from afar. So I ran after him, in hopes of extinguishing the fire or dying trying. We unleashed the fire extinguisher and the fire was smothered. A cloud of yellow chemical fell over the entire scene.
We sat on the dock, smoked cigarettes, and then eventually took the rest of the day off and rowed the zodiac over to Newcastle Island.
I guess these are the times that remind you of your mortal essence.
I know that on that day, we felt as though we had come close.