A few years ago, my wife and I went on a short business trip down to Newport Beach for a few days, with our friends Matt and Jeri and Randy and Suzanne.
We stayed at a beautiful hotel near the water, Randy, Matt and I attending meetings, while our wives relaxed at the resort. Since our mutual friends, Craig and Margie lived nearby on Balboa Island, we visited them on Sunday afternoon, knowing we had to be back for a dinner reception by five.
Craig offered to take us for a little cruise around the island, which we much enjoyed. The day and surroundings were lovely and, as I remember it, we had some wine and cheese while taking in the sites.
On our way back to Craig's place, we saw a solitary couple on the beach, a little boy and his mother. The boy was crying and pointing at a brightly colored beach ball floating midway between us. The boy was maybe 3 years old, and his mother couldn't swim out to get the beach ball without leaving her son at risk on the beach.
So, we all agreed that we should go after the ball in the boat. What we didn't realize, until it was too late, was that there were two underwater ropes between scattered buoys all along the shoreline, to keep boats from doing the very thing we were about to do, which was to get too close to the shore where there was no dock.
Within moments, we were stuck right where we were, with the submerged ropes hopelessly tangled in our prop. Craig shut the motor off and sat there watching the brightly colored beach ball bob happily in the water about thirty feet away. The mother and son abandoned the beach.
We had a little more wine and cheese and called harbor patrol, who said they could reach us in about an hour or so. We knew it would take them some time to untangle the boat once they got there, not to mention the lecture we were sure of to follow.
Knowing that we would miss dinner if we waited through all that, I began considering how to untangle the ropes. Somewhat possessed, I shed some clothes, jumped in and swam under.
Did I mention that it was March and brisk and dark under the boat? After an initial inspection of the problem, and having received sufficient assurances that Captain Craig would not start the motor, I swam back under the boat.
The prop was highly tangled in both ropes. Having begun the untangling, I occasionally came up for air, clinging to the side of the boat. During one such surfacing, Randy encouraged me by asking. "How much longer do you think you'll be?"
After a while, and it was quite a while, it occurred to me that I could make better progress by keeping my eyes closed and focusing on the feel of the ropes in my fingers. At last, the ropes untangled. Gratefully, I climbed back in the boat and into my clothes, teeth chattering. Craig hurried us back to his house and me into a hot shower that never, ever felt as good.
We made it to dinner on time, and, looking back on it, what seemed an inconvenience turned out to be quite an adventure.