Need For Miami Speed

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

During a family trip in Miami, a speed boat expert finds his skills put to the test. Can he recover from some unforced errors?

May 28, 2021 – Miami, Florida, USA

Steve Forester had warned his in-laws that Florida was a lot bigger than they thought.  His mother-in-law planned a trip for the extended family that started in Orlando and stretched all the way to Miami.  Moving from one Florida destination to another involved three vehicles, six adults, and five kids.  For Steve, the only saving grace of the trip was that his father-in-law was paying for most of it.

When the family reached Miami, along with visits to the beaches and Everglades, Steve’s mother-in-law booked them on a speedboat tour around Biscayne Bay.  When he was alone with his wife in their hotel room, Steve complained that a speedboat tour sounded boring. 

“I’m used to driving an actual ski boat and going 50 or 60 miles an hour.  If this tour boat thing lets your mom and dad drive, the boats have to be pathetic.”

“Don’t you think it will be cool to be out in the ocean instead of a lake?” asked Steve’s wife, trying to put a positive spin on the adventure.

“Not really.  We’re going to be in a bay.  There aren’t any waves.  When we take our boat to Lake Powell, that’s a lot a lot more exciting than a bay.”

“But you’ll see different things.  Lake Powell is all rocks and cliffs.  Here you’re going to see building and bridges.”

“Yeah, very slowly,” replied Steve.  “It would be different if we were out in the actual ocean going as fast as we wanted.”

Bright and early the next morning, Steve and the family entourage showed up at the designated dock next to Biscayne Bay.  They were part of the day’s first tour, which was supposed to last a total of two hours.  All they found at the dock was a locked gate and a sign advertising the speedboat adventure.

“You sure this is the right place?” Steve asked his mother-in-law.

“It’s the address they emailed me,” she replied with a shrug.

Two more couples showed up a few minutes later and stared at the sign.  And then,

five minutes after the 9 am start time, a short figure appeared on the other side of the locked gate.  He had a tan, wrinkled face, and messy morning hair.  He wore denim shorts and flipflops.

“You folks here for the speedboats?” asked the man in a gravelly voice.

When everyone in the crowd said yes, the man introduced himself as Sylvester.  “First thing we need to do is get everyone a lifejacket.  Let me look at you.  I’ve been doing this so long I can tell right away what size you need.”

Sylvester unlocked a closet close to the dock gate and pulled out lifejackets.  He handed one marked XL to Steve and said, “Looks like you’re my heavyweight on this trip.”

After everyone had snapped together their lifejacket straps, Sylvester gathered them into a half circle and said, “Let’s get you separated into crews.  Only adults can drive, and we’ve got eight boats that can handle 500 pounds each.”

Sylvester went to work matching up passengers.  Steve was put with his eight-year-old daughter, Cammy, and told to stand next to her.

“The boats you’ll be in are easy to drive,” announced Sylvester.  “Like go karts on the water.  They’re almost impossible to sink, so don’t worry.  Just stay in line and follow the boat in front of you at a safe distance.  We’ll keep things nice and slow while we’re in the no-wake zone close to the docks, but we’ll open things up when we get into open water.  Are you ready to have a good time?”

The crowd cheered.

“Follow me to the boats and I’ll give you more instructions,” continued Sylvester.

He opened the gate to the dock, and everyone headed down the floating walkway in front of the boat slips.  Sylvester ran ahead of the group and led them to nine fiberglass motorboats floating right next to the walkway.  They were painted either bright red, green, or yellow and had a single bench seat.

“These look like toy boats you’d rent at a pond or something,” Steve whispered to his wife.

“Be nice,” she whispered back.

Sylvester stood next to one of the boats and continued his instructions.  “The steering wheel works like a car.  Your speed is controlled by the throttle.”  Sylvester pointed to the lever on the side of the boat, close to the steering wheel.  “Push down to go faster.  Pull up to slow down.  Since you don’t have any brakes, you need to anticipate slowing down way before you hit something.”

Sylvester gestured toward the bay and explained how they would take a right turn and then a left to reach the open water.  Then he lectured about maintaining a safe distance between boats.  No one in the crowd had any questions and most of them cheered again when Sylvester asked if they were ready for some fun.

“I wish your grandma and grandpa acted this excited when I take them on the ski boat,” Steve whispered to his daughter.

Sylvester directed Steve and Cammy to the very last boat in the line, which was painted bright yellow.  They waited while Sylvester untied all the other boats and they puttered out into the waterway.

“Okay, jump in,” Sylvester called to Steve and Cammy as he hurried over the help them launch.  “You’re at the tail end of the line.  Just follow everybody else.”

“I noticed this only has a 30-horsepower motor,” Steve said to Sylvester.  “My ski boat back home has ten times the power.”

“Uh huh,” muttered Sylvester as he worked on the knot holding the boat in place.  “There we go,” he said when the rope was free and he used his foot to push the boat out into the water.  “Give it a little gas.”

Steve eased the yellow boat’s throttle forward just a hair.  It crawled through the glassy water and Steve made a slow turn between two rows of high-masted sailboats.  Sylvester piloted the ninth boat in the tiny fleet and slipped past Steve and Cammy on his way to lead and supervise the tour. 

“Look at all these boats,” Steve said to his daughter, admiring the reflections of the sailboats on both sides of the waterway.

“That one has my name on it,” said Cammy, pointing to the fancy letters on the back of one of the boats.

“Oh yeah.  Kinda neat.  So, are you having fun yet?”

“It reminds me of driving the cars at Disneyworld,” said Cammy.

Steve remembered how exited Cammy had been to drive her own, loud car around the Tomorrowland Speedway.  “You want to drive the boat for a while?”

“Really?  But Sylvester said only grownups could drive the boats.”

“We’re only going two miles an hour.  I think it’ll be okay.”

Steve slid across the seat and let Cammy squeeze behind the steering wheel.  She held onto it with her left hand, her wide, nervous eyes staring straight forward.  Her right hand rested on the throttle lever as if it were a big safely switch that she could pull in case there was trouble.

“Looking good,” said Steve.  “See, it’s really easy.  Now when we reach the end of the sailboats you’re going to turn left.”

The yellow motorboat slipped past the last of the sailboats and suddenly Cammy felt like there was nothing to guide her.  To the left and right was a wide water channel.  Directly in front lay a spit of land with a sandy beach.  Cammy’s hand remained locked on the steering wheel.

“Okay, you need to turn now,” said Steve anxiously.

Cammy held her breath and pulled on the wheel with her left hand.  At the same time, her right hand holding the throttle pushed forward as if her limbs were synchronized.  The boat jerked forward and Cammy grabbed the steering wheel with both hands to keep her balance.

“What are you doing?  Slow down!  You have to turn!” shouted Steve.

Cammy’s hands stayed glued to the wheel.  The boat sped closer to the sandy beach directly ahead.  Steve reached over and yanked the throttle backward.  He pulled on the steering wheel, but it was all too late to stop the boat’s momentum.  The bow plowed up the beach.

Steve stood up and tried to rock the boat back and forth, hoping to break loose from the sand.  They remained stranded.  The line of red, yellow, and green boats kept moving away from them, but Steve was sure someone in the family had seen what happened.  He had marooned a toy boat in a no-wake zone.  He was never going to hear the end of it.  His brother-in-law would think it was especially hilarious.

Steve was about to drop over the side and push the boat’s bow off the beach when he spotted Sylvester heading toward them in the red, ninth boat.  What was Steve going to tell him?  That he let Cammy drive the boat and the crash was her fault?  No, that would be worse than if he had done it himself.

“Switch me places,” Steve said to his daughter.  “And when Sylvester arrives, let me do the talking.”
Cammy slid over on the seat and Steve got behind the wheel.

“What happened?” yelled Sylvester as soon as he was close enough to be heard.

“I guess I got distracted,” Steve replied humbly.  “I accidentally hit the throttle when I shouldn’t have.”

“I thought you had your own boat!  You acted like you were experienced.  This isn’t supposed to be hard.  I have beginners doing it every day.”

Steve’s ego wanted to blurt out that Cammy had been driving and it was all her fault, but he simply nodded his head and looked as sorry as possible.

“Lucky the boat looks okay,” said Sylvester.  “Let’s see if I can pull you back into the water.”

Sylvester threw a rope and Steve attached it to the metal loop on the back of his boat.  Sylvester steered toward the middle of the waterway until the rope was tight, then he gunned his engine and dragged the yellow boat all the way into the water. 

“We need to catch up to the others!” shouted Sylvester.  “You think you can follow from here?”

“Yeah, I got it,” replied Steve.  “Sorry about the little accident.”

“I’m sorry I made us wreck, Dad,” said Cammy as the yellow boat got moving again and Sylvester was too far away to hear.

“It’s okay.  There’s no permanent damage.  We’ll laugh about it someday.”

Despite his reply to his daughter, Steve was sure it would be a long time before he was able to laugh about getting stranded.  His in-laws would surely not let him forget it.

Steve followed Sylvester into the open water of Biscayne Bay and joined the line of boats waiting for them.  With no speed restrictions, everyone in the line pushed on their throttles and sped through the calm water.  Steve stayed in the middle of the wake stirred up by the boat in front of him and did not dare try any fancy turns.  Cammy stood up and giggled as the wind blew her hair and sea spray misted her face.

Steve watched the colorful buildings and palm trees pass by on the shore and began feeling restless.  Were they simply going to drive in a straight line for half an hour and then turn around?  The yellow boat moved much faster than it had in the no-wake zone, but it was crawling compared to Steve’s ski boat.  As soon as the tour was over, he would have to listen to his in-laws talk about their new boating expertise.  And they would laugh at him for the earlier wreck.  The very thought of them laughing at him for something to do with boating was completely infuriating.

While Steve grew more frustrated, he casually kept his eyes on the boats directly in front.  Two boats ahead, a hat flew from the driver’s head and into the water.  Steve instantly knew the hat belonged to his father-in-law.  He had picked it out during a vacation to Canada and had worn and talked about it for years.  Almost before the hat hit the water, Steve had formed a plan to redeem himself in his family’s eyes.  He would grab the hat, and he would do it while his boat was still moving.  Only a true expert could pull something like that off and he knew multiple pairs of eyeballs would be watching.  All the post-tour talk would be about the hat grab and not the boat beaching.

Steve cut the throttle a fraction and aimed for the hat, which was floating on the edge of the wake in front of him.  He leaned out and touched the water with his right hand to make sure he could stretch far enough to reach the hat.

“Cammy, hold onto the wheel!  Keep it straight while I lean over the side!” shouted Steve when he realized he would not be able to steer and fish out the hat at the same time.

Cammy held the wheel.  Steve leaned out as the floating hat got closer.  Just a little farther.  Reach a little farther.  Oops and splash!  Steve tumbled into the water.

When Steve bobbed to the surface, his first thought was of Cammy alone in the yellow boat.  He quickly spotted it moving away from him and expected it to keep going.  To his surprise, it glided to a stop.  Cammy had learned something about the throttle from their earlier experience with the beach.  She yanked it backward, killing the engine in the process.

Steve swam frantically toward Cammy in his XL lifejacket.  By the time he reached the boat, Sylvester was alongside of it.  He helped to hoist Steve up and into the passenger compartment.

“What happened this time?” asked an exasperated Sylvester.

“My father-in-law lost his hat.  I leaned out too far.  Cammy stopped the boat,” replied Steve between short breaths.

“Your daughter stopped the boat, huh?  Sounds like she’s a better driver than you.  We should have started out with her behind the wheel.”

Steve wanted to laugh and say he had tried that.  Instead, he kept his mouth shut and wrung water out of his shirt.  Sylvester restarted the engine, and the yellow boat followed the others back to the harbor.

When the family unloaded and stood on the floating walkway, Steve was the only one soaking wet.

“Tough day on the water for you, Steve?” called his brother-in-law with a chuckle.

Steve ignored him and held up the Canada hat.  “Look what I got,” he said proudly.  He had clung to the hat while swimming and climbing back into his boat. 

His father-in-law cried gratefully, “My hat!  I thought I’d never see it again!”

Steve grinned crookedly and said, “Cammy can explain everything when we get back to the car.  Maybe I’ll let her drive.”


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Submitted: June 11, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Aaron Hawkins. All rights reserved.

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David Lastinger

I liked your story. It made me laugh. I know a little girl that would have been a perfect Cammy.

Tue, June 14th, 2022 12:40pm

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