Wednesday, March 16, 2011

That Sinking Feeling (Or, of Friends and Pickle Buckets)

You know the feeling...the one that lurks in the back of your mind; not quite a conscious thought, but not quite autonomic either. But it's there, robbing sleep and causing you to be on edge.

Such was my lot on a spring weekend not so many years ago. I planned a great weekend away with my daughters, a couple of their friends, my wife to be, and her boys. I rented a nice lakeside condo recommended to me by a co-worker, and planned a weekend of fishing, cookouts, and jet skiing.

To be ready for the fishing, which I planned to do very early in the mornings  from 6AM till noon before everyone else rose for the day, preparations began weeks in advance. I took my boat to the shop and had them get the engine in the best shape ever. I sorted tackle, put new line on rods, and made sure everything was ship shape. 

We arrived at our lodging for the weekend. The kids scattered to check out the dock and the water. After unloading the luggage, I took the boat about a quarter of a mile up the road to the boat ramp. Our condo came with a boat slip, but due to the location of the building (atop a cliff), boats had to launch at a public ramp. It was here that the nagging sinking feeling began.

Perhaps it was the ramp. It was pretty steep, and cut into the bank such that the truck sat about 7 feet below ground level when backed down to the water. Claustrophobic. Maybe it was the fact that the boat launch seemed empty. Shaking off my worries, I launched the boat and motored out of the marina. The old Bass Tracker never ran more smoothly. There is something about  a boat jumping up on plane that makes me smile; especially so when the water is like glass like that day.

I tied up at my slip, and loaded all my fishing gear in my boat bag to carry up the long flight of stairs to our home for the weekend. The nagging at the corners of my mind was still there, but more faintly as family fun ensued.

At dawn the next morning, I quietly sneaked out of the condo. My gear was on the back porch. I looked down the cliff at the covered boat slip, and something looked odd.

The feeling in my mind got stronger, as I strained to see what was out of place...My slip was the second one on the left...

Well - I guess that explained the feeling...

But how in the world did it happen? We had no storms or rough water of any kind. I made sure the plug was in the boat, so that wasn't the culprit.

I could see the batteries hanging underwater by their cables, and oddly the bilge pump was running.

Some new friends also staying at our condos helped me secure a come-along to one of the back cleats.  This allowed me to winch the boat upright, but now it was full of water and just below the waterline.

We called some old friends who own a lovely Irish restaurant (the are the real deal - first generation Irish Americans) about 10 miles away. They came with empty 5 gallon pickle buckets and helped bail out the boat so the bilge could pump the rest of the water out. I kept a vigil all night. Water kept coming in, but I could not tell from where. Fortunately the batteries were new, and between the onboard recharger and a long power cord,  we made it through the night.

In the morning, I pulled the spark plugs and cranked the outboard to blow the water out of the cylinders. That accomplished, I used the trolling motor to creep back to the marina, not knowing if the batteries would have enough power to get me there, or if I would sink in the process.

Fortunately I did make it, after having to stop a couple times to rest the batteries. Later  I found the problem. I apparently sheared off a couple of rivets on the bottom of the boat, presumably on some rocks. It was equivalent to having  a couple of .22 rounds shot through the hull. The leaks were fairly small, so on a trip on the lake of a few hours, not a great deal of water accumulated But when I left the boat overnight in the slip, the water had its way.

Fortunately after some TLC by my mechanic, the Tracker was once again serviceable and we had many more adventures in it - and I never again had that sinking feeling.

1 comment:

Outdoor Blogger Network said...

There's that sinking feeling we sometimes get (inside) and sadly, it's usually for a reason. I can only imagine the frustration at not knowing what was going on and why your boat was trying to sink itself in the slip.
Glad you were able to pull it out and eventually fix the problem....bummer about a weekend that was supposed to be devoted to family and fun turned into a rescue mission!
Very well told story, I enjoyed this!