Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did!

September 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

While traveling home to Oyster Bay from Vermont on my 24-foot Revelcraft, my fiancé and I spent a night in Catskill. Waking up to a light rain, but with good visibility, we headed south in the Catskill Creek past Saugerties, West Park, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Cornwall-on-Hudson, West Point, and Haverstraw before needing to refuel in Tarrytown.

As we approached the fuel dock, I put the boat into reverse to slow it down, but to my surprise, the transmission didn’t actually reverse. As I wasn’t going very fast, I simply stopped the engine and threw out a line to a dockhand.  Once fully secured, I checked the transmission and the oil lines feeding it; all seemed fine, so I fueled up, started the engine, and put the boat in forward.  It worked!  I then tried reverse again, and it worked, too. Though I had no idea why it hadn’t worked, we continued heading home because all seemed fine.

Continuing south past Hasting-on-Hudson and Yonkers, we entered the East River, where we came to Hell Gate.  Most boaters who have traveled through this cantankerous, if not downright treacherous, narrow tidal strait in the East River tell stories about the strong currents, and this day would live up to the lore.  Suddenly I heard a loud bang, after which the boat started to vibrate badly. I slowed down as much as I could, but mindful of the prior transmission hiccup, I decided to leave it in forward.

My fiancé took control of the boat and I opened the hatch. I saw nothing unusual — no leaks, no smoke, nothing appearing strange.  When I returned to the controls, I attempted to accelerate, but that only caused the vibration to increase.

As our reduced speed meant that the remaining part of the trip would take longer, I decided to telephone my parents, who were meeting us in Oyster Bay. I used the VHF radio to make the call (yes, this was a long time ago) and tell them that although I apparently hit something that was causing a vibration, we weren’t taking on any water and we’d be delayed by an hour (don’t ask how I figured out that it would only take 60 extra minutes, but that’s what I said).

I was more comfortable when we left Hell Gate, passed under the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges, and entered the Long Island Sound.   By now the rain was a bit heavier, but we still had good visibility as we crept along.  Little Neck Bay, Manhasset Bay, and Hempstead Bay seemed to take forever to pass by!  As we approached Hempstead Bay, we noticed a helicopter that seemed to be following us — we joked that maybe the operator had nothing better to do than watch us.

As we approached the mouth of Oyster Bay, three boats headed directly towards us.  As the first one approached, the captain yelled, “Are you the Holiday IV?”  I yelled back “Yes, why are you meeting us?”  He responded that my folks had called the U.S. Coast Guard when we hadn’t arrived at the anticipated time!

We turned into Oyster Bay, heading for our marina, and as we got close to the dock, I noticed that a gas-powered water pump was operating, apparently under the assumption that we were taking on water.  I yelled to the dockhand that I wasn’t sure the transmission would go into reverse, slowed down even further, and put it into reverse. This time the transmission worked fine, but something flew off the back of the boat.   After we tied up, I went to investigate the jettisoned item. It was floating close to us, so I got out my net and fished out a man’s deck shoe!  Apparently it somehow, somewhere got caught up on my rudder and caused the boat to vibrate at faster speeds.

Though there’s some moral in here about “if the shoe fits,” the real lesson in my story is that if you ever get into a situation which causes you to be delayed, keep in touch as you progress.  Otherwise, you risk worrying those waiting on shore and waste the resources of first responders, who are certainly right to think the worst when you don’t show up at the time you promised.

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