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It should have only taken four hours. (1 Viewer)

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djn

Hi All, I am posting this here to prove to the administrators of this forum that I can and do write stories that do not have Adult Content. I just had a story removed from the forum because it was too adult....whatever that means. I am not disgruntaled, just a bit confused. Cheers.


As you know, I bought my 1977 Catalina C25 (La Tina Caliente) last December. The boat was on the hard at Rivers Bend Marina on the Pine River in St. Clair Michigan. St. Clair Michigan is located just south of Port Huron, on the St. Clair river.

I have been working on the boat all winter, on and off, as weather permitted. Rivers Bend Marina is an hour and a half from my house and my new slip, at Markley Marina on the Clinton river on Lake St. Clair, is 23 minutes from my house, so you can imagine, I wanted to move the boat as soon as possible, just to get it closer.

Last Wednesday was the big splash day and I had the day all planned out. Go to West Marine, buy a whip antenna and coax for a jerry rigged radio and a new Garmin 170C Chart plotter with chip for lake Huron, St. Clair, and Erie. Go to the boat, hook up the radio and GPS, and motor away. I figured it to be about a four hour motor down the St. Clair river, into the north channel, out across lake St. Clair, into the Clinton river and into my new slip at Markley marina. No problem Right?

Well every thing I did that day took a bit longer than anticipated. By the time I got to the boat it was 4:15 p.m. At the mouth of the Pine river leading to the St. Clair river, there is a bridge that opens every hour on the hour. So the next window of opportunity was 5:00p.m.



I have been working on this boat for five months and I want to go. That’s all there is to it!

When I got to the Marina, La Tina Caliente was in the water….and….she floats. In my delusional state, I start thinking that I didn’t really need the GPS for this trip as I have a set of maps and the Vikings didn’t have GPS so why do I. I have a cell phone with full batteries so I didn’t need a radio either. There is nothing in my way. After five months, I can go…..so I did. A 9.9 hp Johnson outboard motor does not do a very good job of stopping a sailboat with a 1500 lbs keel. But before I find that out, I back out of the slip and put the little motor in forward and start motoring down the Pine river. I was very excited. My very own sailboat and the weather is beautiful. It only took ten minutes to get to the bridge where, to starboard there are piers to tie too while waiting for the bridge to open and, to port there is a huge restaurant with a beautiful outdoor deck full of dinners. I felt confident in my boat handling skills as I powered down, popped the motor into reverse and revved it up. NOTHING!!! That little motor in full reverse did barely nothing to slow the boat. So instead of just cutting it hard and going around, I did the smart think and grabbed a pier. The harder I pulled the more muscle mass I could feel shredding. My Chest, shoulder, biceps, and triceps all ripping and tearing trying to slow the boat. I had to let go. At this point I had the option of motoring off and going around, but my idiot gene kicked in and I grabbed the next pier. What might have been minimal damage is now morphing into future convalescence time. By the time I grabbed the third pier, my arm was shot and I just let go.

I am still not sure what happened at this point but the bow of the boat swung hard to port and, in the middle of the river, in front of a whole deck full of amused dinners, my boat did three complete spins before it stopped pointing straight at the bridge.

My mind was reeling from confusion and disorientation when a very distant and awkward noise brought me back to the moment……it was applause! The sons of bitches on the deck were clapping. Don’t you think, at this point, the gods would have just opened that bridge so I could tuck tail and run? Didn’t happen.

While taking stock of the situation, I noticed the guy in the bridge tower with his arm stuck out the window pointing to a sign. “Please call on channel 16 to open bridge”. That would have been fine if I had hooked up the radio. Lucky for me there was a young kid working in the city’s gardens along the river. I yelled out to see if he would run over to the bridge guy and tell him I did not have a working radio on board. He did and came back with a phone number I needed to call. I did and was given a number of the bridge. When the bridge guy answered “ooooyeeeee, that sum boa handlin” I knew I was being screwed with. He opened the bridge.

I felt so much better as soon as I got out on the river. Just for perspective, the St. Clair river sees 1000 ft freighters all day long. It is a major piece of water. So for the next two hours I just motored along. The sun was still shinning, the water was calm, one gull followed me for an hour before chasing a freighter from Ecuador in the opposite direction. I did a quick calculation using fixed points on the map and my watch and I was making around 7.5 kts. (the St. Clair has a six to eight knot current and I was with it) It was a very pleasant little cruise and I figured that the worst of it was behind me.

At some point, I started wondering if the six gallons of gas I had on board was enough for the entire trip. Sure enough it wasn’t. By the time I determined I was at the halfway point, the gas tank was half empty. There was no way I was going to cross lake St. Clair on fumes so I started looking for gas.

The first BP sign I came too led me up a little channel ending in a pier. To port sat five pumps. I angled the boat in for a landing and at the last moment I remembered. This little motor will not stop the boat. I have questioned myself often since then and still can’t figure out why I grabbed the pier instead of going around……but I did. Same as before, and I actually thought about it as the upper muscles on the left side of my body started shredding. I must have wanted to be evenly mutilated, side to side. This time I was going to win and on the third pier I stopped the boat.

I had to sit for a minute and take stock of my situation and reasoning skills. I have made good decisions in my life, some effecting thousands of employees, some supported by millions of dollars, both in the U.S. and ten other countries. So why can’t I get this little boat to Markley marina? As I tried to figure out how to get up the six feet to dock level, I had to laugh at the sign in the window of the station……”CLOSED”. Bring it on, I can take anything.

So back out into the St. Clair river I motor. I brought one of those blue pad/seatbacks with me and I sat on it in the back of the boat and tillered with my knee. It was a pleasant trip to the next gas stop which was on the North Channel leading to Lake St. Clair. From Decker’s Landing (gas stop), it would be about on hour or two to the marina…..if all went well. I put in 4.5 gallons of gas and paid $16.50. Used the bathroom, stretched my legs, got in the boat, started up the motor and took off in the wrong direction. Totally the wrong way. Should of took a heading of 330, but not me. Nope, it was 230 for me. I am embarrass, again, to admit this, but at one point I tapped the compass and thought it had gone bad because I just knew I was in the North Channel.

I was in “Chanle A Bou Roun”. A dredged channel through what looks like an estuary dotted with tiny islands sporting little empty summer shacks. If I ever own a jet boat that drafts 1 foot, I’m going back. It is a great place to check out mother nature but not so good to spend the night listing to starboard. I was feeling so good about my little trip when the first bumps reverberated through the hull then tiller. For the life of me, I could not imagine what I was feeling. By the time I understood what was happening, I was stuck, stopped and the sun was setting.

Obviously the water was not too deep and I could see the bottom. It looked rather pleasant really. I thought about hopping out of the boat and dragging it back to the channel but then started thinking of all the wise(?) decisions I’d made that day and opted to stay onboard. In hind sight, I realized that it was a good decision. The current in the 18 foot deep channel is about 6 to 8 knots, but it looked like 10 kts or better on the flats. The current was pushing me onto shallower ground. Add to that a 10 knot wind blowing in the same direction as the current and I’d have never been able to keep it in stopped if I got it back to the channel. Add to that I do not have a ladder on board to get back in the boat and no dry close to change into once aboard. At that point I thought I’d call my wife and let her know that I was lost at sea. She did not take it so well.

In her mind she saw the boat engulfed by flame while by lifeless body slowly drifted into open waters: the sounds of screaming babies and the wrenching of the hull being ripped in two by ice bergs. In fact, I was hanging out in the cockpit thinking that I wish I still smoked. Seemed like a pleasant place to have a cigarette.

I tried different ways to get the boat unstuck and at one point my friend Marty (over the cell phone) suggested I ensure the keel was full up. It wasn’t…… I was so excited when I started cranking and the boat began a gentle sway. I was free….and then not. I moved about two feet into shallower water. So then I tried everything. Rocking the bow, rocking amidships, hanging way off to port, then starboard. I was getting so tired and probably looked like an idiot.

The time had come to admit defeat. There was nothing I could do except start making preparations for the night. Which in this case meant removing one of the cabin lights and hard wiring it to the battery and setting it on top of the cabin (I have not straightened out the wiring yet), laying out all the cheep-O stinky life preservers for a bed (the cushions were at home, clean and dry), and setting out dinner (Combos – Pizza style, and Gatorade). I also figured it would be time well spent hooking up my new GPS and reading the manual. When that thing was hooked up and running, I’ll be damned if it didn’t tell me EXACTLY where I was.

Time just meanders in Chanel A Bou Round. At times I thought it was late, and at other times I thought it was still early. Slowly the flats became alive with birds swooping and fish splashing. Being so close to lake St. Clair and being a cloudy night, the lights of the Detroit metro area bounced back down into my little estuary. It never really got dark, just twilight.

I don’t know what time it was when the silence vibrated, just a little, with the sound of outboards. I couldn’t tell the direction, but there were multiple boats headed in my direction, and then like Krammer exploding through Jerry’s door, four jet boats came flying around the same corner I’d rounded earlier. As soon as they saw my white outline (the boat not me), they stopped dead in their tracks. I am not sure what they said, but it was dementedly drunk talk. I flashed my make shift light at them and yelled through cupped hands, “can you give me a pull?”, and through cupped hands they yelled back “NO” and took off; cackling like a pack of Hyenas.

I think I stood there, with rope in hand, for at least a half hour. I was zoned out by their response and then realized that it was the correct response for that day. It must not have been midnight yet…..I was still in the Bad Day. Digging out my cell phone revealed that I had an hour and twenty one minutes left in that day. I vowed then not to do anything for two hours….just to be on the safe side. Things don’t always work out the way you plan.

My mind started working on me at that point. Even as I ate my dinner of Combos and Gatorade, I thought about how a Combo in my air way could kill me, and with no one around to do the Heimlich maneuver,….I stopped eating.

Time started meandering again. The flats became quite again and then slowly came to life with birds swooping and fish jumping. It was quite a little show that was suddenly shattered by one of the drunk boats rounding an islands and heading straight for me. The hair on the back of my neck was standing straight on end and through sheer instinct I hopped down into the cabin (I’m a big guy and don’t hop to anything, but this time I did) and came up with a pipe wrench in hand. Just feet from my stern they came to a halt. “You seen our buddy?” I could barley make out what they were saying. They were very drunk by now. It sounded like “yuk seing mower uddy?”.

As they left en-mass last time, one of the boats took a different tack and was now lost and aground themselves. I want to reiterate that I am not a stupid person. And it must have been the lateness of the hour, but I asked them for a tow. Thank God (really) they once again yelled through cupped hands “NO”. This time they where two feet from my boat. Again, the sound of cackling could be heard across the estuary as they jetted off.

This time I got pissed. Their jet drive washed over the side of my boat and sprayed me. I was seeing red as I spun to yell at them but my momentum was stopped by my dodger frame. I’m not sure if I was actually out cold but all was quite when I realized I was sitting. As soon as my senses came back, I grabbed my cell phone and saw I had ten more minutes before this day was over. 11:50p.m.,…..”just sit here” was my mantra.

The rest of the night was uneventful…sort of. My marine head is inoperative and I didn’t want to hang over the side because of no ladder, so I used one of the empty Gatorade bottles. It probably would have been better to do this outside but I was tired and had to go. I thought I had a good grip on the bottle but now I need new carpeting. Other than that, I took the time to hook up the GPS, munched on Combos now and again, sipped Gatorade and tried to get some sleep. It was not very comfortable laying on all those life preservers but I know I slept in spurts throughout the night. By 6:00a.m. I realized I was going to have to bite the bullet and spend the $50.00 to get towed so I called (Nationaly Known Boat Towing).

Back in January, when my (Nationaly Known Boat Towing) card arrived, I was happy to see, right there on the front of the card, “On-Water-Towing: $50 per incident”. That’s all, just that little line so what would you take that to mean? Get towed for fifty buck right? When I called (Nationaly Known Boat Towing) for a tow and gave them my exact lats and longs from my new GPS, the guy asked me if I was familiar with their towing charges and I said yes. Heck, I was reading it right off the front of the card; what’s there to know! In about 45 minutes, the tow boat was motoring up to save the day. Very cool vehicle by the way. It looks like a Zodiac on steroids. Sounded like a big block Chevy under the hood. Drafting 1’ 6” with a jet drive.

The guy was very friendly and non judgmental. The only thing he could have done different was to bring hot coffee. We exchanged pleasantries for a bit then he asked for my (Nationaly Known Boat Towing) card and Visa. When he handed it all back showing a $519.00 charge, I felt like I’d been kicked in the chest. I couldn’t even talk, I just sort of stammered.

Apparently the $50.00 per incident statement on the card refers to how much (Nationaly Known Boat Towing) covers. The total was $569.00 with $50.00 covered by (Nationaly Known Boat Towing).

What could I do? He was there, I was not going anywhere and I really did not want to stay, so I signed and he pulled. I don’t know if it was an illusion, but it looked like a jet ski could have pulled me off ground. It was effortless. He pulled me back up channel until I got the motor fired up and in gear. As fast as he came, he was gone.

The motor back up into the North channel, across lake St. Clair, into the Clinton River, and into Markley Marina was peaceful, almost surreal. I had been on the phone with my daughter Laura all morning and she was waiting on the dock for me. I angled at the slip, stuck it in reverse and the engine quit. Nothing. Silence, except for the sound of my Bow Pulpit ripping the starboard deck up were the front is attached..
 
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