Our Ugly Old Canoe.

I’m not sure how much I’ve ever talked about it. Our canoe. It’s old. It’s ugly. And it leaks. I know I’ve uploaded a couple pictures of fish in the bottom of it, in pools of water.

Matt's little pike.

You can see the water under him.

You can see the water under him.

Last weekend, Brother’s friend observed that not only was paddling it like steering a semi truck, but “we also appear to be taking on water?”. We assured him that yeah, that was perfectly normal. Nights up north where we left it partially beached, we’d return to it and have to dump it out before me pushed off. Matt did buy it for $60 from a guy on Craigslist. That guy had repaired the hull with a piece of aluminum and some Bondo (not kidding). Watching Brother’s Friend paddle it around trying to pick up fallen ducks, I realized why we got all those funny looks. Thing is ugly.

Our ugly old canoe in the shelter we put up for Ditch Boat.

Our ugly old canoe in the shelter we put up for Ditch Boat.

Well, Matt’s planning on taking 3-5 people with him tomorrow for the duck opener. At least two guys from his office, and at least two I know of from the Janesville office. Our jon boat can hold 3 grown men, max, if we’re also hauling guns and decoys. So, the canoe is going with. But we both felt bad about sticking some poor fools in our leaky, tippy canoe for their first time duck hunting. Matt’s been meaning to fix the leak all summer, but doing it from the outside would mean sanding off all the paint, scraping off all the Bondo, removing that piece of aluminum, and starting fresh. He slapped on a BandAid for the time being. For permanent if it works out.

SAMSUNGHe laid fiberglass all down the middle, where the cracks were. It’s been drying under Ditch Boat’s shelter for the last few days. It’s been dry and relatively warm, with very low humidity. So, hopefully we now have a more watertight canoe for the newbs to use, and for us to have. It’s still pretty ugly, though.

 

 

Manic Weekends.

In this house, we tend to procrastinate. Now, we have perfectly good reasons for this. Namely, work. Summer is the time it’s easiest for us to get things done that require being outdoors, since there isn’t a ton of snow to move, or frostbite warnings, frozen precipitation, or anything like that. But it’s also a busy time for both of our jobs. I know for me, the litany of Things To Be Done is kind of like constant background noise that sort of picks up when I’m looking directly at any one project. But for Matt, as far as I can tell, it all comes painfully into focus when he’s about to become even busier than normal.

Last weekend, while I was spending all my time slinging drinks to peoples’ dads and grandpas, he cleaned and reorganized our two spare bedrooms and the garage. Now, one of the spare rooms held mostly his stuff- awards, paperwork and references for work, uniforms, etc. The other I had intended to get to when the season at work wound down, since it held all our hunting gear. The garage was a hopeless mess, but the man does good work. It’s now got a lot more usable space.

Where am I going with all of this? I’ll tell you. Yesterday was Wisconsin’s early goose opener. So, he’s been realizing over the last week or two that with him taking over the Madison station + hunting season (for everything), we aren’t going to get anything done, really. We have done so much this weekend in addition to goose hunting, and most of it for me involved squeezing whatever it was in before I had to be at work in the afternoon or evening.

Most of the work centered around the Ditch Boat. Matt had sanded things down slowly over summer, and it was ready to be patched. He agreed to take off a weekend to fully fiberglass the exterior during deer season, but it was good to get the interior side of the big holes done. There are still a couple soft spots to sand down and reinforce, as well as a handful of cracks to take care of so that the hull is whole before winter.

You can see we also put a shelter up over it. This is just in advance of nasty Fall and Winter weather. It will be here before we know it, and Matt plans to be able to do some work on it over winter, as well.  Mainly, he’ll cut the wooden parts of the floor and cure them in fiberglass resin to waterproof them. Then, come Spring, he hopes to install the floor. After that, we’ll work on getting the engine to run, and run new wiring.

 

 

One Last Summer Fling Before Fall and Life Catch Us Up.

Normally, my new posts go out on Mondays. But we got back from this vacation on a Thursday. I’m also working all through the weekend- closing the dining room tonight, and closing the bar on Saturday and Sunday. Those two days I also arrive at work by 11 am. They’ll both be long days. I’m not too sure how much I’ll have to write about come Monday, but I had an idea. You see a lot of how-to for packing for camping. I took some pictures of my get home, get unpacked process.

Anyhow. Last Monday I wrote about the salmon fishing we did last week Saturday. We stayed that night in the Appleton area with Matt’s brother and his wife. Sunday morning we hooked the camper back up, packed up the pups, and headed further north. We stopped at a little grocery store in a town along the way to stock up on food. It was a very pleasant ride all along country roads on a sunny day.  Farmers were haying, and that far north, we were seeing the outermost leaves on the ash and maple trees beginning to change color- in spite of temps in the 80s and up.

For the most part, we spent the week fishing. This was another National Forest campground- Richardson Lake. We camped here once last year in June, before I ever started this blog thing up. It was rainy and chilly the entire time, and we were stuck in a tent. At the time, the jon boat had only one trolling motor on a too-small battery, and the old Merc didn’t work. We also didn’t catch any fish.  Not so this time. We had the camper and the canoe. It was nice and warm most of the week. And were the fish ever biting. I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked, as my phone and only camera blew through its battery fairly quickly. I need to remember to turn off mobile data that far in the stix so it isn’t constantly searching for a signal.

We fished mostly there on Richardson, but one day we did go to a different lake, where Matt’s grandparents live. That’s where we caught the big pumpkinseed and the big bass. When we weren’t fishing, we were visiting Matt’s family and tooling around the area.

An Adventure in Wet Pants and Smashed Toes…

One thing I wish I’d gotten pictures of, but wisely did not take my phone/camera for was a trout fishing attempt. The Oconto river near Matt’s hometown is cold and rocky. It holds brook and brown trout. One of his old high school buddies took us down there for trout. It was rugged and beautiful. When we picked his buddy up, we should have known we were in for trouble. On the phone, he specifically requested Mike’s Hard Black Raspberry Lemonade and jalapeno beef sticks. He said without those, there would be no trout. He was waiting in his driveway in a pair of chest waders. Matt and I were in shorts and sandals. We went offroad in the Durango for a couple miles, and then bushwhacked our way down to the water. When I said rocky, I meant bouldery. And loggy. When logging was still a big thing in northern Wisconsin, they’d floated logs down the river, and you can still see some of the bigger ones. The rest are all deadfalls. We spent two or three hours scrambling over rocks, under trees, and through icy water. Matt dunked himself repeatedly. I didn’t go in over my knees until the last minute, soaking my right side. No trout, only chubs and smashed, tender feet.

Besides Fishing…

Other than fishing, we did some shooting. I got in some practice with my bow and got it sighted in. We also did some trap shooting, and I got more practice with my shotgun. Based on my practice, the ducks and geese have quite the upper hand this year.

We also went coyote hunting on his grandfather’s farm. The first morning we didn’t see anything. But we went our last night there (Wednesday). It turned into a bit of scouting. We saw at least 5 deer. We also saw a flock of turkeys. Three toms, three jakes. We didn’t see any coyotes, but they did answer our calls in the distance.

Blurry turkey blobs. I need a new camera.

Blurry turkey blobs. I need a new camera.

However, we started to hear thunder rumbling. On the way over, we’d caught some weather advisories out of Marquette, Michigan and Marinette. We hoped it would pass north of us, but then the thunder got louder and this happened.

Not good.

Not good.

It poured. We got soaked. The deer got soaked. The turkeys got soaked. We were mighty grateful for the camper when we got back to the site. Our firepit was full of water, and there were a couple inches of water standing on the ground over most of the site. If we’d had a tent, we’d have been screwed. We changed into dry clothes, and waited it out.

It stopped raining, and Matt decided to throw a line in the lake. Earlier in the trip the dogs had knocked my sandals into the fire, leaving me with only my hunting boots or my leather boots. I opted not to go. After about 20 minutes, Matt shut off the generator on me and said “I’m vetoing you. Come down here”. He’d had a pretty decent bite. We pushed the canoe out for some post-storm fishing. I caught a tiny blue gill, which we used for bait. And Matt finally caught a pike. But the best thing was the light at sunset.

Thursday morning, we headed out one more time to fish. In the pictures above, we kept 32 of the fish we caught. We tossed at least that many back, and used some of the really small ‘gills for bait (only in the lakes we caught them in). Once the morning bite stopped around 8:30, we packed everything in, and headed back home.

A Return to Normal.

Three hours later, we re entered civilization and our normal lives. I work all weekend. Matt works all of today (Friday). Next month he takes over the Madison recruiting office (for the next couple years), and I have the rest of the season to finish out at the golf course (who knows how long the weather will hold). By January, I hope to be back in college classes so I can maybe get this godforsaken degree of mine an inch closer to done.

This vacation was, I think, just a pause or a breath before we both enter a bit of a new chapter. Dealing with recruiting duty with Matt just a canvassing recruiter for the last three years was incredibly hard. The first several months of him running the office will be tough as well, particularly since he’s starting right when school does. It will be a different kind of hard. I’ll be paying down the last of what I owe UW-Madison from two years ago (yuck, I know), and saving up to pay for next spring. Our one touchstone through all of this mess will be our outdoors hobbies. Hunting, fishing, all of it. It keeps us grounded, and it keeps us together.

Salmon fishing

Saturday morning, we woke up at 3 AM to drive the hour to Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Matt’s brother had a friend who took us out on Lake Michigan in his fishing boat. It was a gorgeous day, and the water was flat calm. He set us up to troll in the deep water offshore. We only caught two fish, but it was still an awesome day.

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                                                Pre-dawn light as we left the marina

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                                                      Sun peeking over the horizon

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                                                      Trolling along

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                                                      First fish

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                                                     Small king salmon

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                                                     My salmon

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                                                     Sparkling blue water

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                                                     SS Badger, returning from Ludington, Michigan

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                                                     Cleaning our paltry catch

Apparently, it’s been a bad fishing year on Michigan. We weren’t surprised to only get two. And it was an amazing, lovely day. 70, sunny, water temps in the 50s. It was a fun experience. I’m excited to try again next year.

Staycation

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My first fish ever caught on the lakes in Madison

So, after busting part of the engine on the riverbottom a couple days ago, we’ve fixed the shear pin and been out a couple more times.  We trolled for muskie and pike yesterday (Wednesday- I’m writing this Thursday night). I caught the little bluegill you see above while waiting for Matt to untangle the trolling lines.

It was a gorgeous day out on the water, even though we didn’t get any big fish. Lot of sailboats out, and the sunset was lovely.

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We deliberated Wednesday night about where to try next. Monona is an A1 muskie lake- not a lot of them, but the ones in there are trophy sized. Lake Wingra is A-2- smaller, but more numerous. I voted for Wingra, since we’d never been. We drove through town to the launch off Monroe street. It was another gorgeous day. We started on the west end of this weedy little lake, and were on panfish almost immediately.

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Your blogger has looked better.

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Matt’s pumpkinseed

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Most of the lake was like this.

We had a good variety of fish. Umpteen bluegill for each of us. I had a black crappie and Matt had a little perch and a bass. None of the muskie we were after, but it was still a lot of fun. We headed home to run a couple errands and begin packing for this camping trip.

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Matt got himself a lay out blind for goose.

Naturally that included a trip to Gander. I don’t want to talk about how much Matt spent there, but it was good to get one of the layout blinds out of the way, at least. Then we came home, and I began a cooking and baking bonanza. We have a large batch of chocolate chip cookies, a plum cake, a double batch of pancake batter, two pasta salads, a container of cooked couscous, prepped dry oatmeal, and a couple different snacks and sides.

We’re stopping over by Matt’s brother in Appleton first. He has a buddy who can take us out salmon fishing (!) Saturday. I drew up a big grocery list to get us to next Thursday, and we’re going to get everything up in Appleton or Green Bay to save us a few days of keeping everything on ice. So, depending on when we have access to internet/electricity, it could be a week or so until I put up anything else. Or maybe not! If I find some wifi or whatever.

Trail Cams and a Failed Boating Trip.

Yesterday was supposed to be another one fishing. Matt decided to give the lower Wisconsin a shot, and we headed over to launch out of Mazomanie. The land we hunt is on the way, so we also stopped put up our trailcams. Yes, we’re late to that party, but it’s public land, and we’d rather they didn’t get stolen. Plus summer just really got away from us.

This tree would even be pretty decent to hunt out of.

This tree would even be pretty decent to hunt out of.

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We did a bit of light scouting while we were out there, but it’s been pretty dry and the ground’s hard. I did find one turkey breast feather in the same field where I scared out the jake and the tom, and where we think they roost. There was also turkey poo, and some of the only deer tracks we saw. We didn’t make it to the back fields, and we both agree to get a better idea of what happens in the front of the property for the very late season. Trudging a half mile or so in knee deep snow is pretty tough.

As we drove through the Mazomanie Bottoms state natural area to the Boat Launch of Doom.

As we drove through the Mazomanie Bottoms state natural area to the Boat Launch of Doom.

In fact, putting up the trail cams was the only positive from yesterday. With how shallow that part of the river was, we ended up breaking a shear pin on the lower part of the outboard on some rocks (though luckily nothing more serious). The current was too strong for the electric motors, so we carefully made our way back to the launch to attempt to shore fish. We didn’t catch anything but a bunch of snags and a rock that had a zebra mussel on it (I cracked that sucker open for bait). I gave up fishing before Matt did, and when he decided to go, I put a bottle of soda in my purse, only to discover the lid came off, soaking my bag in Coke.

I think it also slaughtered my poor camera, which has been with me since my study abroad in northern Germany in 2007. I’m going to tinker with it a bit to see if I can get it to work. That $100 I spent six years ago seemed like a lot to a broke-ass college student about to leave the country for the first time. Plus, I’m pretty attached to this thing. We’ve seen a lot together. Lüneburg, Lübeck, Hamburg, London, all over Chicago and my home area in Illinois, my college town, Sacramento, San Francisco, Phoenix, the mountains in Arizona, Pittsburgh, Madison, northern Wisconsin, two Marine Corps balls, a couple weddings, some family parties, and countless other small trips and events I’m sure I’m forgetting. If not, then I guess I’ve been kicking around replacing it for a while now.

Something to be Said for a Sure Thing.

This weekend was the unofficial start of Matt’s leave. It doesn’t officially start till 4 pm today, and he had to go into work this morning and Saturday morning, but we’re counting it. Sunday we got out and tried our hand at trolling on Lake Monona.

Getting everything set up.

Getting everything set up.

Scattered thunderstorm

Scattered thunderstorm

Setting things up to troll is quite the undertaking. Without the proper equipment, you’re just dragging lures behind you on the surface. Given that at one point, we were in 50+ feet of water, this isn’t really helpful. There’s all kinds of things out there to make your line go down to a certain depth, or out to the sides. We only have the two big pole holders, so we used two jet divers to sink our stuff to about 10 feet. Figuring out how to get them to stay down took more than a couple tries. Eventually, we had them tied on right, and had enough line out at the right speed to get them to stay under water. We trolled for about four hours altogether. We had one follow up when we stopped to cast for a little while, which was the most exciting thing that happened. That is, until we managed to break off two trolling lures and the jet divers when we snagged the bottom. Our line was heavy enough test that the leaders are what broke. After that, Matt cast for a little while, but when another muskie lure lost its tail as he retrieved it, we called it a day. He shook his fist and swore that with two weeks off, he would find a way to catch fish on these lakes.

After a little retail therapy at Gander (and some tackle replacements), Matt decided that we were going to catch some fish today, damnit. We went with the sure thing and put in up at Cherokee Marsh for some catfish. Fish were jumping clear out of the water as we motored up. We tried by the lily pads like we normally do, and Matt caught the first non-catfish we’ve seen up here.

12" largemouth

12″ largemouth

Two inches shy of the limit, it went back in the water. We opted to mix things up and move away from the shallows in the pads. There’s an island in the middle of the marshy lake. Near there, I caught a good sized cat, which Matt held for the picture.

SAMSUNGWe’ve got more than enough catfish fillets, however, and I opted to let it swim away. It was here that we also caught a couple more drum (/sheepshead)

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After a little bit, we motored back to the channel that leads to the launch. Last Fall during waterfowl season, there were incredibly low water levels after a hot, dry summer. We always saw huge wakes as we scared out fish. Matt wanted to try to fish right there. We set up again just before dark. I had another drum pretty quickly. It had swallowed the hook, and as I was cutting my line, I heard Matt blurt out something and lunge for his pole. It was his light little panfish pole, and the line was going out in a hurry. He fought it for a long time. It went under the boat, and I had to pull up the front anchor before he could pull it up and I could get a net under it. It was a bit too dark to take a photo just then, and we were fending off mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. Matt’s pride was restored a bit, so we decided to leave the marsh to the bats and the bugs.

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At 13 pounds, it’s lighter than the one I caught back in April, but that one was preggo. This catfish was definitely bigger. Matt set to skinning it to taxidermy it.

Matt plans to cut out of work early today. We may go out fishing some more tonight, but I also set out the last goose we had frozen. I had to make room for all of Matt’s frozen taxidermy specimens. There will finally be another Wild Food post. The rest of this week we’ll be fishing and scouting. We need to set up game cameras (we’re way late to that party).  We’ve also got some tentative weekend plans, and given my luck, I don’t want to spoil them by blabbing them out. The last time I did that, his entire leave got cancelled.

A Thursday Out of Town and On the River

Every three months or so, Matt has to go away to All Hands training. Since the recruiters are generally pretty isolated out here, away from the Fleet and all the reasons people typically join the Marine Corps, it’s a combination of training updates, and a morale-boosting activity for two days. They do it in different cities all over Wisconsin, and the activities are always different, but August’s All Hands is always Family Day. Other branches and other stations do it all kinds of different ways, but here, we get cheap passes up to Wisconsin Dells. It was my first day off in seven days. We spent the better part of yesterday at the Mt Olympus theme park up there, riding waterslides, roller coasters, and go carts.

We also took the boat up with us. When it got to be about 4 o’clock, we said goodbye to some of the work buddies Matt rarely gets to see, and ducked out of the park. First stop was locating a bait shop among all the lake houses up there. Once that was finished, we found ourselves a boat launch and got on our way.

The thing about the Wisconsin River up in the Dells, though, is that it’s a major tourist attraction. The Dells are there because of the beautiful sandstone formations, and the famous Wisconsin Army Ducks were out in force.

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Layered Sandstone

Layered Sandstone

Small bluff

Small bluff

Sunshine upstream.

Sunshine upstream.

 

At one point, a Duck Driver even worked us into his tour, joking that he saw the same man out yesterday with a different woman. We also had to contend with the Jet Boats.

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Otherwise calm water was made pretty turbulent with all this traffic. We motored a bit upstream and anchored near a sandbar, out of the lanes these things use. The fish were definitely biting. Matt caught a green bluegill within minutes. He also caught a little largemouth bass. My one fish here was a largemouth just shy of the legal limit at 13.5 inches

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While I was reeling in that fish, one of the recruiters Matt knows from another city in Wisconsin called him. He and his wife wanted to fish with us. So, we puttered back to the launch, picked them up, and went downstream, fishing near this neat island.

I didn't futz with my light settings, and I should have.

I didn’t futz with my light settings, and I should have.

There were small fish jumping everywhere here. Nothing really bit, until about 30 minutes in, another Duck Tour came by. The driver went straight over one of Matt’s lines. He hooked into the Duck boat by accident. Luckily, the driver had slowed down to ask how our fishing was. We were able to shout over that we’d caught his boat, he turned around and came close to give us some slack.

SAMSUNGAfter that incident, we motored back upstream to that sandbar. We fished there until dark with few mishaps. Matt caught a big sheephead carp, and kept it, intending to practice his taxidermy on it. With the small school of bluegills he’s collected, the carp, and goodness only know what else he’ll keep to practice on, we’ll have a nice little starter seascape of taxidermied fish.

I had fun on the water. The Wisconsin is a nice river, though my only experience on it was an overnight kayaking trip two years ago on a much lower portion of it, below the Sauk City dam. It’s much deeper up in the Dells, even below the dam there. Our fish finder was reading 40 feet in the channel, and there was a hole under one of those bluffs registering 60 feet deep.  We didn’t get a big flathead catfish like Matt hoped for, but we caught more fish than we ever do in the Madison Chain.

Finally Getting Our Crap Together.

This weekend, not everything went according to plan. We nixed Summerfest and opted to go fishing instead. Thinking we had the Merc going again, we headed out onto Waubesa on Saturday afternoon. We got a little ways from the launch, and the motor started up on the second pull, only to chug and sputter out. Something was up with its sparkplug wire- it wouldn’t stay connected and the motor wouldn’t start.. We trolled and cast anyway. It was a weird day, weather-wise, but not unusual given this year. Lots of scattered thunderstorms. It would go from sunny to a windy downpour in a matter of minutes. Once we were on the water, though, it didn’t rain. The wind kicked up, nearly overpowering our poor little trolling motors.

For fishing Saturday, I had one solitary bite.

That night, Matt resolved to get a new outboard. Ok, so, it wouldn’t be new-new, but anything post-1949 would be a step up. Sunday morning, we somehow had the luck to find an estate sale going on less than a mile from our house. It was for a man who’d run a marine and outdoors repair/warehouse. I wish I’d taken some pictures, because my goodness. His son was cleaning out the warehouse before he had to return to Alaska. We didn’t even go all the way inside, but on top of having about 10 small fishing boats with trailers and motors, he had another 6 or so canoes, 5 outboards sans boat. Oh, and two sailboats; one that looked to be well over 35 feet- it required a big tri-axle trailer. There was also a horse drawn sleigh on top of a big shelf.

We took a little 3 horse Johnson motor. It’s a beautiful antique from the 50s. It also runs wonderfully. We took it out Sunday afternoon looking for muskie and pike. We saw a few of them jump, but no bites. We at least got the lures wet for the first time. Both days were quite windy, making for some good sized waves. Our little boat rocks a lot, and any waves make it difficult to stand and cast. It ends up being a mix of fishing and surfing.

Maybe we can make it out again on either a calmer day, or onto a protected bay. We also are looking at getting real trolling gear. Way easier than casting for predator fish. At any rate, we now have a working boat motor.

A Little Bit of Good News

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So, I’ve been working a bunch this week- lots of closing shifts, which means I’m not usually home before 10 or 11. Midnight in some cases, like last night. It was a busy, rowdy night at the bar, but everyone cleared out around 11:30, and we were able to close and get out by about 12:30. I checked my phone around 11, and saw that Matt had texted me. He was saying he’d done something awesome, and wanted me to bring him home a reward. He sent it around 9. Figuring he’d be long since asleep by the time I finally got home, I decided I’d get him ice cream on Friday.

This morning, we got up, and he tried to get me to guess what the awesome thing was. It was pre-coffee, and I had nothing to go on, so I failed that one. He’d tinkered even more with the old boat motor, and got her to start! Turns out that in spite of draining the tank 3 or 4 times in the last month and a half, there was still some water lurking in the fuel. Luckily, this motor is from 1949, and is incredibly easy to work with. Couple that with the fact that he got it registered for Wisconsin (it was previously registered in Iowa), and we can take her out again! Now we just have to remember to renew our Madison Lake Access Permit so we can use all of the 16 lovely, well-maintained launches on the Madison chain.

In other news, the camper sprung a leak. Honestly, it’s probably the leak that originally caused all that mold in the upper part of the front, where we had to knock out all the modly paneling. Matt’s been up there spraying over cracks with that nifty spray-able rubber stuff that Rustoleum makes. We’ve got a blower fan set in there to dry things out a bit now.

This weekend, we were planning on trekking back to Milwaukee to go to Summerfest. But I also have a Friday night off for the first time since probably February, when the golf course started up their Friday Fish Fry. We may make it out to fish tonight and a couple more times this weekend, and we’ll be able to do more than troll a quarter mile from the launch!