A representative from the Coast Guard returned our sleeping bags today. We had stowed away on their Crown of the Lake flagship back in June. For as long as I can remember, Agatha and I have had an obsession with search and rescue. We love the thought of lifting people up in nets and scaring off alagators with flares. We knew we could never pass the Guard’s physical and emotional exams so our best option was to sneak aboard and pretend to be lettuce scrubbers in the ship’s galley. Agatha figured we’d be out there long enough that we’d become friends with everyone and they’d teach us how to work the winch or pee using those astronaut toilets. It was gonna be great.

Coast Guard ships don’t have galleys. As it turns out. Or at least the Great Lakes models don’t. This one just had a sports cooler filled with sunflower seeds and cans of Canada Dry. It was also used to hold copies of Outdoorsman magazine. Which I don’t subscribe to any more but…

But! But the boat did have a big crane arm and this big rescue hose. And Agatha pointed out the giant radar dish. It could stop anything. We could catch art thieves on jet skis and folks trying to smuggle arabian horses into the country. There weren’t really any weapons but that was OK, cause I told the Captain I knew a guy who could get us a harpoon gun. He just kept saying, “it isn’t like that, it isn’t like that,” but he has to say that. He has a mustache.

Actually it was kinda like that. At least during the day. We just floated around and occasionally wrote out parking tickets for speed boats. Once Agatha spotted someone being drowned by seaweed but when we got over there, it just turned out to be a tire. First Officer Larry said that happens all the time. He says kids are always stealing them from cars and throwing them in the lake.

He’s a good guy. He gave us this great taco recipe and told us how he was afraid of joining the Air Force.

Anyway, it all made sense after nightfall. As the sun went down, Agatha noticed that we were slowly picking up speed, heading east. We got out into the middle of Lake Huron, just on the other side of international boundary (that dotted line on the map running through the center of the lake). Stopped in Canadian waters, the crew quickly got to work. I thought for sure it was a giant water snake.

Well…the big crane arm lowered the hose into the lake and the captain turned on a big vacuum pump and started sucking water up into the thing Agatha thought was a radar dish. It was just a storage tank. Actually there were three of them. The crew filled all of them up and then we turned around and started heading back.

Soon, though, we stopped. The crew swung the crane out over the water and flipped on the pump. Except in reverse. They emptied all the water back into the lake. Agatha and I looked to the Captain.

“I like to get at least 20 minutes from the border before unloading. Safely on our side. We do this all night. Technically it’s all public, but, you know, fine print stuff. Something to do with NAFTA and pine trees. I don’t know. I got three more years until the pension.”

Agatha and I just stared at him.

“I don’t know what kind of world you kids are getting handed…”

Still– it was a fun summer. There were fireworks and some of the crew guys taught us how to smoke.

Now I just read everything I can get my hands on about hang gliding.

Chris Weagel

Chris Weagel writes about the intersection of technology and parenting for Wired Magazine. No he doesn't. He can't stand that shit.

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