*When The Motor Quit*
Break Out the Paddle
29 April 2007
Synopsis: It sucked.
“The James Gang” was out attempting to do some weeding (seaweed harvest) today. We were screwed up right from the start, the tides were at a funky time & we were going to a new area. When we got there it was pea soup fog. I know the area pretty good as far as navigation goes and fog isn’t a problem. We arrived just before high tide and splashed the boat, figuring we had some time to go scouting out some “gonks”. We ventured in to the fog and found some weed and kept moving along looking for more. Turns out most of it was under water so it was a waiting game. We made our way back to the boat ramp to wait.
Then we decided to go scout a couple more places by land while waiting for the tide to drop. That was all good and fine and I showed the comrades a small hard to find beach that will make a good insertion/extraction point later on. We arrived back at the boat awhile later and struck out. The fog had lifted a little which helps. Headed up to where we had found weed earlier and started picking. There was plenty of it there, but it was all rotten and slimy on the bottom. Nothing but junk…we managed to scrape up 9 bags which will barely cover gas expenses. Decision time came and we decided to head for a different location in the area. Delbert knew a place where it was loaded with weed, but not knowing the area from the water it had never been picked. The ringleader asks, “Can you get us up in there?”…. “Yea, don’t see why not”. We trailered the boat and headed to another boat ramp and put in again.
I headed us north toward the mouth of the bay and the entrance of another bay. We figured we’d slide by the side of the reversing falls and check out a couple gonks. Nada….turned the corner near the falls and hit some SERIOUS current. Clearer minds prevailed and we figured we’ll save that for later and make the run on a slack tide or come in from the other side. So I swung around and headed up in to another bay. The wind was picking up and causing a chop on the water. Picking the east side of the bay was ruled out because it’d be unsafe to try and cross with 1000+ pounds of weed plus us. We could in vision bad things happening so we headed toward the west side tacking in the chop to keep from being broadside to it. As we got in close to an island the water & wind calmed. We started in to a gonk there and I smelled something hot. I looked at the motor and saw smoke coming from the cowling and I noticed the tell tale wasn’t spitting water. I brought down the throttle and the engine died. Well, good. A big chunk of seaweed had plugged up the water intake holes. It cleared, but the motor wouldn’t start, I took the cowling off and it was really hot.
Welp, break out the paddle. We don’t carry too much gear with us as we never get in to open water, we’ll always hit land somewhere. Paddled to the island which was closer than the mainland, and given the current we probably wouldn’t have made it to the mainland.
We weren’t too deterred, crap happens. While the engine was cooling we looked for more weed. Found a TON of it easy to get too. It was probably 6 inches thick and stretched 50’ wide and it was all the way around the gonk. Started picking it up and it was rotted on the bottom too. Absolutely useless. That’s a shame, probably could’ve picked up 300 bags right there. We figured out today was a loss, we got skunked.
The motor started, but wouldn’t pump water so I shut it right off. Being too stubborn to call the Coast Guard for a tow, we figured we could make it provided we didn’t get caught in a current that pulled us toward the reversing falls. It was about 2 miles to the landing. The logical thing was to hug the shore to stay out of the wind & current as much as possible. If things went south we stood a chance of getting ashore. So we struck out a paddling, saving the motor for if we needed it. TSHTF, start the motor and run wide open for the nearest land, island, ledges, whatever. ANYTHING other than going through the falls with no propulsion. Bad bad bad bad bad. Having only 1 paddle, the seat was torn up and we used a 2x2 piece of wood. For being a piece of wood it worked pretty good. Every little bit helped.
After paddling for a while we got in behind a couple more islands and started the motor. I “gavahhell” for a bit until it started losing power then had to shut down. We still had a good mile at least to the boat ramp. Started paddling again and cleared some ledges, I noticed a small beach with some boats, so logically there was road access to it. We made like vikings and paddled for it…20 minutes later….we hit mainland.
Knowing it was about 1 to 1.5 miles by road to the boat ramp and knowing it’d be a long walk in the rain wearing hip waders, I pulled in a favor. Called up a fellow Deputy Sheriff who lived nearby and explained the situation and he said he’d come help. A couple of us made it to the main road and he drove us down to the boat ramp to get the truck and trailer. Then he came back to help us load the boat.
Analysis: Things could have been better, things could have been worse. All in all, things were ok.
We had communications. We didn’t panic, big deal, the motor quit, we formulated a plan and pulled it off. We could have easily sat on that island and had a fire going until somebody came to pick us up.
From here on out, my 7.5HP outboard motor will be stuffed in the bow of the boat for a back up and 2 paddles are better than one.
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