We need you, Miss Manners. Just as the good times are starting to roll on Northwest lakes and streams, the outdoor boors are emerging like mosquitoes in a wet spring.
They’re thoughtless, rude, even dangerous.
They can be so out of bounds that there is no polite word to describe them. Joan Baune encountered people like that at a beach along the Snake River.
The Spokane woman and her family set up the tent, stashed their coolers under the picnic table, then boated up the river for a couple of hours.
“When we got back, there were two boatloads of people using our campsite, sitting at our picnic table, eating our food, sitting in our chairs,” Baune recalled with an incredulous laugh.
The intruders didn’t leave until the family had fussed and fumed for two hours.
“They argued that it was a public beach and they could use it if they wanted to. I said, ‘It’s not public food!”’
Dan and Arlene Fox once pulled up to their Priest Lake island cabin and found strangers having a family reunion, complete with cabanas
By all accounts, most folks out on the water are as pleasant as a blue-sky breeze.
“There are way more polite people than there are rude ones,” said Jan Steele. She even has a theory that people are more trusting on the water, willing to help stranded boaters whom they’d probably drive right past on the highway.
But like all of the people invited by The Spokesman-Review to share tales of water chivalry or horror stories, Steele called to report the latter.
She and her husband live on Long Lake (officially, Lake Spokane). They watch anglers use their dock without asking permission. They’re awakened at 5 a.m. by bass fishermen roaring past their bedroom window. Other boaters ignore the 100-foot no-wake zone, pulling skiers within 25 feet of shore and kicking up waves that cause erosion.
“Rude, crude, socially unacceptable, worse than a New York cabbie’s worst behavior.” That’s what Jim Larkin, also a Long Lake resident, has to say about some fishermen.
“They leave lures on your deck, your dock, your boat.”
One man instructed his 4-year-old son in the fine art of knocking a squawfish on the head, then threw it on the Larkins’ lawn.
Sometimes, outdoor misbehavior is so bad it embarrasses kinfolk.
Patricia Moberg once watched a frustrated fisherman walk off a charter boat and throw his tackle box off the dock.
“His wife climbed down, grabbed it, dragged it back up, and set it on the dock. He proceeded to pick it up and throw it back again.”
At least he was taking his frustration out on the equipment. Avid sailors Joanne and Dan Cenis have been invited to crew on other people’s boats, only to witness ego-tripping captains.
One man bellowed so badly at his wife, Joanne recalled, “that my husband said, ‘I’d rather not go sailing than go with him.”’
Spokane County marine Deputy Tom Mattern knows all too well the “righteous domestic violence” that can happen when a husband and wife or two brothers disagree on the best way to launch a boat.
Sometimes, Mattern said, one person doesn’t want help, or doesn’t ask for it.
“What’s really too bad is that the husband often seems to be the one who wants to back the boat in, disconnect the boat, push it off the trailer. And the wife’s just there holding the rope.”
Meanwhile, a long line of boaters wait to launch.
There’s rudeness, said Andrew Cady, then there’s stupidity. He recalled an unnerving example of that on the Spokane River. He was piloting his cabin cruiser up the Spokane River toward Post Falls, and was about 20 feet from the riverbank.
“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a boat passing on the right side, between me and the shore. So I scooted over. This boat was pulling a water skier. It proceeded to pull right in front of my boat as we went down the river.”
Nan Waters has a story about danger and rudeness.
Waters’ son and daughter-in-law had saved for a year to take a salmon-fishing trip to Puget Sound. Not long after launching their 10-foot aluminum motor boat, they were swamped by a 30-foot yacht.
The big boat didn’t even slow down. The Springdale couple’s boat sank out from under them.
“If another large boat hadn’t stopped to help them, they might not have made it,” she said.
Jody Bernard still is appalled at the lack of courtesy shown her father, who rescued 10 boaters back in the late ‘60s. The college kids crashed their boat full of beer cans in the middle of the night near Vern Baxter’s Lake Coeur d’Alene cabin.
With only their moans and a flashlight to guide him, Baxter paddled his canoe along the shore and came to their rescue.
“He saved their lives and he was never even thanked for that,” said Bernard. “Only one girl wrote a note.”
A Jet-Skier offered no apology after she zoomed within a foot of Don Thorne’s son and daughter, who were swimming in Deer Lake.
“She pulled off the beach full throttle, went along the dock and just missed my two kids by less than a foot,” Thorne said.
It seems nothing raises blood pressure levels quite like hot-doggers on those increasingly popular “personal watercraft.” Maybe that’s because they really are like mosquitoes, buzzing around and around.
Ellen Watkins has counted up to 11 Jet-Skis at once jumping the wake of a cruise boat. She’s particularly annoyed when they swarm near shore at sunrise.
“We camp on our property on Lake Coeur d’Alene. We’ve had Jet-Skiers there at 6 in the morning. It is not a pleasant way to wake up.”
Delmar Coppock was boating in a 10-foot-wide channel of the Bitterroot River this spring when a Jet-Ski buzzed by him. He figured it was going 35 mph.
While not always dangerous, close proximity can be annoying. Lorraine Bosse felt crowded last week at Fish Lake, even though there were few boaters out for trout.
“We were in our favorite spot when a boat with four people came within 12 feet of us and anchored down. They were too close to us, so we moved away. After we caught our limit, they moved into our place.”
Lifeguard Donna Shove has seen sunbathers get territorial when they spread out their towels at the city beach in Coeur d’Alene.
“The whole rest of the beach will be empty, and someone will move in right next to people,” she said.
Then there are the parents who are less than grateful when a lifeguard warns their child against swimming far from shore.
“You call the swimmer back in, and the parent will say, ‘Hey, what are you doing telling my kid what to do?”’
Shove emphasized that most sunlovers behave just fine. So even without Miss Manners on hand, niceness ultimately should prevail on the waterfront this summer.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Lake courtesy No, that big orange-bellied airplane isn’t buzzing the lake to annoy you. That’s Eric Johnson looking for a place to scoop up water that he can use to douse a forest fire. Could you kindly give him space to land? “If there’s a lot of boats, I’ll make a low pass and they all know I’m there,” Johnson said. “The ones that are real helpful to me just move over to shore.” A few other courtesy tips: If you look in the windows of a lakeshore home and see someone there, said Jim Larkin, don’t disturb them by anchoring just off their dock. If you’re out for a sight-seeing cruise, said Jan Steele, don’t just gawk at people who live on shore. Wave hello. “It’s way more polite.” Ask anglers if they mind having you nearby. “It’s not cricket just to jump in,” said fisherman Mark MacIntyre. “Some people are really bizarre about sharing a stretch of water. Some don’t mind.” Rafters shouldn’t launch right into the middle of a passing party of boats. Peter Grubb also suggested floating quietly past fly fishermen. And don’t be a bozo - leave the boom box behind. Be ready to launch your boat when you back it up to the ramp. Take the boat cover off and load up the ice chest while you’re waiting in line, said Deputy Tom Mattern. “If you’re not ready, wave the next person on.” -Julie Titone