It started with a message on my answering machine. “Hi, I’m Drew. My wife and I along with my three year old and one and a half year old are coming up to the Indiana Dunes for a few days next week and we’d like to go on a fishing charter. With the little ones on board, I’m sure we won’t be able to do a full length, five or six hour trip. Can we go out for an hour or hour and a half?”
My first thought was to just call him back and tell him to forget it. Even if he offered to pay for a full length trip and then only fish for a short time, I’d feel bad about doing that to him. Then I came up with a plan that worked out just fine.
I was scheduled for a morning charter on Monday, the trip ru
nning 5 AM to 11 AM. I’d already have hauled the boat to the lake, the boat would be in the water, another hour or two wouldn’t make much difference to me and would give Drew and his family another adventure on their trip to Northwest Indiana.
Since I seldom get back to the marina exactly on time, I called Drew and set our departure for noon. We agreed on a pro-rated price for a short trip and all was set.
Except for lifejackets! I carry lifejackets suitable for youths up to 90 pounds but not for toddlers.
Then I remembered the Portage Public Marina is one of almost 600 marinas around the country signed onto the BoatUS Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Program. One of the program's goals is to educate boaters on the significance of wearing the appropriate size and type of life jacket while boating. Another is to make sure a day of boating isn't spoiled just because a family forgot a life jacket at home. And finally, the most important goal: simply to keep kids safe out on the water!
When Drew and Susan arrived, I directed them to the marina office and in a few minutes both Will and Evelyn were decked out in appropriately-sized PFDs. No charge. The program is funded by donations from the more than half a million members of BoatUS and the general public.
It was a fun trip. Without enough time to run offshore to the area I fished in the morning, we gave a little shot at finding some nearshore steelhead. The youngsters generally enjoyed the trip, I know mom and dad did. In a couple years when Will is a little older, perhaps I’ll take them out on a “real” fishing trip.