Lucky To Be Alive
You're thinking WTF do what's posted here in pictures have to do with the potential demise of good old Bob?
As the story goes . .. . as a pre-teen and into my teenage years my family waterskied. We owned a small ski boat powered with an outboard motor that had enough heft to pull someone on a single ski. We skied in San Francisco Bay, Lake Tahoe, Lake Mendocino, Clear Lake and at what's pictured here: The Russian River at the Healdburg Memorial Beach.
Come Memorial day the flood gates you see in this photo were closed and enough water was held back to swim and ski in. On Labor Day the gates were taken down to accomodate migrating fish. No more swimming and no more skiing until the next Memorial Day.
To launch a ski boat here you had to be a member of the Russian River Boat Club or know someone with the gate combination. We tow the boat to Healsburg to ski on dad's days off or after he was off work. It was a short 20 minute drive from the house to the launch ramp as compared to other places to ski that were an hour plus away.
There was barely enough water in spots to ski (close to the beach). Whoever was driving the boat had to have come skill to make tight turns at the end of each run. Less than tight would put either the skier or the boat on dry land. Brother Marty did just that once. Didn't watch what the hell he was going and he ended up skiing on dry land. Major road rash. Major crying from Bro Marty. Lots of bandaids. I was smacked for laughing. It was pretty funny.
We continued to ski here, there and everywhere until I turned 18 and went into the military.
After my 3 years, 21 days in the military I returned home to a bunch of wild over 21 friends who loved stupid crazy shit. Outboard motor ski boats were out. Too slow. To mom and pop. If you owned one it had to be a flatbottomed boat, preferrably a Sanger much like the one pictured here. We're not talking 25 to 35 mile and hour boats. Flat bottomed boats were dragsters in disguise and could reach speeds of 50 to 75 miles an hour or more.
After work we'd all pile in someones car, tow the Sanger up to the Russian River and ski until there wasn't any light. We'd barbecue. We'd down enough beer to make us crazy stupid. Skiers were blitzed. Boat drivers could hardly walk but oh, could they drive (well, not all the time). It was not unusual for skiers to be hauled up and down the river at speeds well over 50 miles an hour. When you're on one ski that's hauling ass.
Beer crazed boat drivers had to drive in a straight line but they had to turn around twice. The first turn up river was easy. The most difficult and dangerous came when the boat passed under the bridge. To make the turn the boat had to come very close to the concrete pillar in order for the skier to make the turn. Sometimes the margin between the boat and the pillar were in inches.
Even after sunset we'd be skiing, drinking and having fun. That's when millions of bugs would come out of hiding. Anyone skiing would have bugs in their mouth, on their teeth and plastered on their foreheads.
Wifey and the other women chicks would wear swimming caps like these. Some of Wifey's favorites are in the first row of caps. Wifey chicks would act as the observer in the boat while the guys skied. Sometimes wifey chicks would watch the skier but there were times when they really had to keep the driver doing in the right direction.
Why no one was towed over the gravel, why none of our boats were driven onto the beach, why not one skier hit the concrete bridge pillar, why none of the skiers were run over by a ski boat (there were close calls) and why all of us came away with ten fingers and toes, two arms and two legs is a freaking miracle.
That said, after I had been home from the service for more than a few years, one skier did hit the center bridge pillar and died instantly. Shortly after that a ski boat hit the pillar killing the driver, the sole occupant of the boat.
It was then that the powers to be felt it in the best interest of the public to close the ski club. It remains closed.
It could have well been one of us.