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What Lies Beneath

September 28, 2016

We have been using the boat a fair amount this summer, and I have been getting familiar with the new electronics. I probably don’t use half of the functions that it has, but I am still learning. The problem is, at twenty-two knots a lot can happen while looking at a display screen trying to figure out how to change a function. With the old units I knew how to make changes without even looking. It will take some time I am sure, but remember this: look out the window!

We were out one beautiful July day, having cruised east to Greenport from Robin’s Island. It was after noon, maybe around three o’clock or so, when we were headed home to Mattituck. Before passing Nassau Point I asked my crew which way they wanted to take, the North Race or the South Race, to get around Robin’s Island. They said it was my choice. Since there was a stiff wind from the south, I decided to take the South Race, keeping the boat in the lee of the South Fork and giving us a smoother ride. We still had a fair chop, and we also had to contend with looking into the sun on our heading. All excuses, I know, for what happened next. Cruising into the chop at speed, I felt a slight lurch to the motion of the boat, not in rhythm with the seas. I looked astern right away in time to see a fish trap marker pop up: a barnacle-covered white buoy like those that mark the spot for lobster traps. Nothing happened after that. The boat continued at speed, and no changes to the engine temperature occurred. Did I just luck out?  Maybe I just hooked it on the rudder and it slipped off? 

I continued on toward the marina and watched the gauges for any signs of trouble, but there were none. Not even a vibration. Fifteen minutes later I was at idle speed getting ready to back into the slip. And that’s when it all unraveled. As soon as I put the starboard engine into reverse there was a funny noise, followed immediately by the starboard engine straining to keep running. I took it out of gear right away, thinking the worst. I tapped the port engine into reverse and again, there was a noise and a vibration. At least the engine did not start to stall. With the wind pushing on my starboard bow, I was able to get the boat into the slip without hitting anything.

I had to hand pull the boat into the slip the final ten feet, and tied her up tight on the port side so I could look into the water on the starboard side. What I saw was not encouraging. A line trailed off forward from the prop towards the bow. Time for a little diving. As luck would have it, the marina owner was driving by and asked how I was doing. I walked up to his truck and told him my tale of woe. I asked him if I could take a swim at the dock and free up the prop. “No problem,” he said. I asked if they had a sharp knife inside. “Here, take mine,” he said. So into the water I went, with only my wife and son around to keep an eye on me. 

 

I grabbed a mask from our cabinet and into the water I went. It was high tide and the water was nice and clean. Under the boat I saw a wad of line wrapped between the strut and prop. I cut off the line trailing forward, and after dozens of attempts to cut the remaining line I started to have less and less effect at cutting. In fact, I was getting nowhere! I was able to hold my breath less and less. I came out of the water using the swim platform, and noticed a sizable crowd had now gathered around to watch the show. Richie was running the forklift and had just put a boat in. When he saw me he asked if I had just fallen in. I went through my story again. Richie dropped everything and got help from Dean to pull the boat out. The three of us moved the boat four slips over to the lift slip. Within fifteen minutes the boat was out and both sets of props were cleared. I can’t thank them enough for acting so fast. We must have cut off well over one hundred feet of line. There was no other damage, luckily for me. So back in the water she went so I could put her in the slip. 

At this time, the port engine starting battery decided it too had had a bad day and would no longer provide starting power! I switched on the battery parallel that connects both starting batteries and fired up both engines. Back in the slip I did a couple of tests (including looking in the log book to see how old the batteries were) and decided we needed new batteries. I walked into the office and parts counter to see if they stocked the size battery I needed. After being told that I smelled like fish, I was told by Will that they did have what I needed. Will went and got the batteries and despite my complaining that I could carry them myself, delivered them to my boat. Again, what great guys that went above and beyond to help. Ten minutes later I had the new batteries installed and the old batteries had been carried away. 

By now the excitement was over and the boat was back in operation. The crowds had dispersed! It just needed to be cleaned. It seems when I was under the boat, I cut my foot open from something under the floating dock. Barnacles maybe, or a nail? As luck would have it, I had stepped on a nail last fall when taking down a stockade fence and got a tetanus shot so I was covered. Either way, I left a nice set of bloody tracks up and down the side decks of the boat. 

My wife Kathy decided now was a good time for me to go use the marina shower and remove a day’s worth of funk. Who am I to argue? Off I went to shower and when I got back to the boat, my wife and son had cleaned it all up and stowed all the gear!

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