One of the few times my father towed that big, 26′ boat, we had a collision. We were taking the boat from his cottage in Port Clinton to the marina in Marblehead. At the time, he was having problems with the wiring harness and the supplemental brakes on the trailer weren’t working. It would have taken a few days to get all that corrected, so he, being a former jet pilot, discounted the risks greatly, and decided to drag the boat to its new home.
Port Clinton is mostly a single strip of action that runs along the southern shoreline of Lake Erie between Toledo and Sandusky, but much closer to Sandusky. There is an older downtown region, but most of the action is along that main strip where motels, taverns, and restaurants attract a rowdy crowd in the summer — the sort of folks that are getting warmed up before some fun on the lake, or even greater rowdiness on the islands.
In the town proper, there are tree lined streets, carefully laid out in straight lines and filled with small bungalows and ranch houses. The town regulars who stay there year round, and generally are an all-right bunch of people. My father decided to drive through the residential streets so as to avoid the nervous police on the strip, and thereby avoid possible questions of his street worthy trailer.
He had a little trouble stopping because of weight and the lack of braking assistance, so he cruised through the neighborhoods very slowly, approaching the stop signs cautiously, and looking carefully. If no one was coming, he would roll through the intersection and begin looking ahead for the next challenge.
At one such intersection, there were no cars approaching. My father did not notice a girl on a bicycle but even if he did, he may not have stopped for her. He rolled through the intersection.
I was in the passenger seat, and the girl was coming towards me. As we pulled out into her path, she looked with some concern at us, but seemed to calculate that we wouldn’t collide. However, she had not seen the boat behind us, and as she approached, the boat on its trailer rolled in front of her.
I leaned out the window to watch, and heard her exclaim: “I have no brakes.” Because she was next to the curb, she felt she had no where to turn, and instead she plowed into the boat, face first, and fell off of the bike and into the street.
I told my father of the situation, and he did finally bring the van to a halt. But he did not get entangled. The girl had picked herself up by the time my father approached her on foot. The moment she said she was fine, he returned to the driver’s seat, and we resumed our slow-motion journey.
As we drove away, I watched as the girl picked up her bike, and tried to straighten the handlebars so that she might ride it again.