Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did

June 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Don't Do What I DidMy girlfriend Robin, my brother Peter, my 6-year-old niece, Abby, and I set out early for the first “shakedown” cruise of the season. We were excited about the trip to my new marina in Oceanside on my newly re-powered 19-foot Winner.

The plan was to travel from Massapequa Cove to the State Channel, pass Jones Inlet and the Long Beach bridges, into Reynold’s Channel, then Hog Island Channel and on to the marina, with a stop for brunch. Armed with a local chart, we tried to make our way out of the back channels and cuts of the Great South Bay, but this was no easy task, as the channels aren’t marked with either a name or a destination. In a short time, we were lost!

Abby suggested that I ask for directions. My ego prevented me from doing so right away, but after another 20 minutes of being lost in a maze of channels, I finally asked another boater for help as Abby sipped her grape soda and smirked. Feeling confidence about the seemingly simple directions, I ran the boat (too fast), missed a junction buoy, crossed a channel instead of entering it, and ran hard aground on a sandbar. Fortunately, there were no injuries other than to my ego.

The lower unit rammed deeply into the muddy bottom. My brother and I, now in the water, could not budge the boat. Abby suggested that we all move to the bow “to make the back lift up.” Of course, this worked. Abby continued to sip and smirk, while I saw that my new Sperrys were ruined.

We made it to the State Channel. I throttled down to transfer some fuel and two-stroke-oil to the main tank from a small portable gas can. The heavy wake traffic caused me to spill some, but my girlfriend quickly mopped it up with my favorite beach towel. We ran past Jones Inlet and the Long Beach bridges, and then I chose a spot to anchor up against a small island in Reynold’s Channel. The chart showed 12 feet of water, and the anchor grabbed after four drops, placing us about 10 feet from the shore. We set up our bagel brunch and beverages.

A larger vessel sped by, creating a big wake that pushed us hard up against the shore. The deck was awash with lox, bagels, tomato juice, cream cheese, and fruit — it looked like a scene in a movie showing a shootout in a bagel store! Somewhat panicked, I cranked the engine to get away from the shore, promptly fouling the prop on the anchor line in the process and stalling the engine. A passing boater saw our plight, threw us a line, and towed us to a dock where I was able to cut away the wrapped line. Brunch? Canceled.

I pushed on, eventually arriving at the marina, where I was assigned to an “inside” slip chock full of boats, pilings, and other things my vessel could easily collide with while attempting to dock. Using intense focus (and brilliant work at the helm), I nudged the boat stern first into the slip as the eyes of the folks in the marina watched the new guy docking. My girlfriend pecked my cheek and my brother high-fived me for a job well done. I stepped from the gunwale and placed a foot on the dock, only to fall in the water —I had not tied off the boat.

“You are so funny, Uncle Paul!” shrieked my niece. I responded by giving her a hose and a mop with a command to wash the boat. Later on, we all had pizza and I treated Abby to ice cream.

I know that I should have kept my initial outing simple, charting the route with attention to marine navigation markers (smart phones have a number of marine apps, but I suggest you learn basic navigation using a chart and compass, as a nautical chart can yield a great deal of information if you know how to read it). I now keep an index card on my boat with buoy numbers and compass headings in and out of my canal — this is especially useful at night. I also pre-mix two-stroke-oil at the dock, and only transfer it and fuel in a calm area. I also keep a pair of “reef walkers” on the boat for when I must get wet. Most importantly, I’d recommend that all boaters invite along a 6-year-old with a fondness for grape soda to assist when you are lost, run aground, or are otherwise embarrassed.

By Paul Knieste


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