Memorial Day SNAFU
So I had just dropped Mary, Louis, Kelly and Alfie off on this little island and said "We'll be back in a little bit, we're going to do a little more fishing." At least that was the plan. Eric and I rode along the marsh to the north, and we pretty much just got out of sight of the beach-up beach and the engine starts sputtering. Shortly after the sputtering there's an alarming alarm , a check engine light, then no more engine. The obvious solution is to attempt to recrank, but she's deader than dead. That's not a very good feeling, knowing you might have just stranded 4 people plus your dog and yourself on an island in the Atlantic with no name. Yay. Good times.
The even bigger problem is I'm drifting towards the marsh which has a water depth of about 1 ft, and now it won't let me raise my motor, so it's pretty much anchoring me on the bottom.
I see a family riding up the same little slough along the marsh and I wave them down, and they come over and offer me a tow. They're well loaded down and I've got all my people on the beach, so ask him if he can just tow me back to the beach-up so I can collect my thoughts and come up with a plan. We toss him a rope and I let go with enough steam to trap my bow up on the beach. I've got a comfortable 5' under the stern.
I thank the guy and his family profusely, and he says no problem and even says he'll come back before he heads in for the night to check if we're ok.
So now what to do?
So first an assessment. Depth finder works. Radio works (GOOD). Oil level is fine. Engine was cooling at last check. But the motor still will not even attempt to turn over. "Maybe there's a safety that when you have a shutoff like that, it prevents the engine from restarting", suggests Eric. Good idea, but if so what a freakin safety feature!? The best way to attempt to answer this question is to reboot the engine system, and they way you do that is just pop off the negative terminal on the battery. I do this, and shortly our question is answered by a rapid clicking sound coming from the motor. Yes, the same sound you get from your car when THE BATTERY is dead. Swell, I'm 3 miles out on the coast and I have a dead battery.
By this starting attempt the "safety" has been thrown again. I know I have enough juice in the battery to power the instruments, but for whatever reason I don't have enough to start the engine. So I have pretty much one hope: if I turn off all electronics, I might have enough power for a start or two. No time to waste, I reset the engine again, everything is off, and turn the key and THANK GOD, she cranks. Purrs like a kitten too, just like she always does. This is good. Now the thinking is, with the electronics off, the alternator should push enough juice to the battery and charge it up a bit. This will take some time, and, gas. Sweet, lovely, tasty gas, and fortunately one thing I have plenty of since I'm apparently overly anal about the gas level in the boat but not the stupid battery. The only question now is, will she stay running, considering she was running the last time she died. Only one way to find out; wait and see while the battery charges.
I'm plenty nervous by now, but feeling good about the fact that the engine has now been running for 5-10 minutes. A beer will put out that fire. Louis comes by an informs me that he has left his flip flops on the little exposed sand bar that we landed on before we landed on this island. I non-jokingly tell him with the current state of affairs, when/if we leave out of here we're making the shortest trip possible back to the marina, and that does not include a stop for his flip flops, and if he wants them he better get to swimming over there for him. Louis accepts my challenge and 5 minutes later is wet and victoriously showing off his just retrieved flips.
While Louis was out for his swim, the Fish Police pulls up beside me on the beach. Considering the beer I had in my console and the one that Louis left under the bow of my boat, he was not a 100% welcome site. I immediately related my story to the Man so as to hopefully distract him from my open beverages, it seemed to work, but did not distract him from his other sworn duty of checking my fishing license (I cast out a line behind the boat while running the engine. You know, to keep my sanity).
He agreed with my assessment that it probably was the battery, and also agreed that my engine running like it is I'm probably ok. He did suggest that if I question my engine's ability whatsoever, it might be in my best interest to not try and cross back through the inlet the way I came, because that's not a good place to have your motor die and have to anchor, or worse, drift out to sea. He instead suggested I head back up the way I went out when my motor first died, around towards the next inlet then bear around to the west and find the slough, line up the 2 channel markers in the distance, and visibly make my way back to the main nav channel. I looked up the way he was pointing and saw green water, blue sky, tan sand, and 2 things that looked like telephone poles. "Okay", I lied. I don't like to admit when I don't understand, which I think he figured out, but again assured me it's a much better place to be stranded, and pretty easy to figure out once I get over there.
So while I'm sitting in my boat under my most welcome shade from the bimini top, waiting while my engine charges the battery, I entertain myself by fishing for fish I'm pretty sure don't exist right behind me, drinking my beer, killing horse flies (as seen in the pic) and just generally enjoy the view. In turn pretty much everybody comes to visit me (they were camped out about 100 yards up the beach), and Mary eventually decides to come and sit by her man as he stresses the highest form of responsbility on what is supposed to be a holiday. But in true manly fashion, my stress of responsbility is quickly replaced by the frustration of competition: the new party that just beached up on the other side of me has begun to catch fish. Meanwhile, I haven't had a nibble since 2007.
I know what I'm doing. I've read the books, talked with people, done it all, pretty much, but still I'm not catching anything. Forget that I wasn't really trying in the first place because THOSE people are catching (a-holes). I've even got LIVE SHRIMP on my hook, the freakin truffle of the fish food world! But nope, they've got white curly tails kickin, which they probably got from Wal-Mart. So I do what any respectable fisherman would do in the situation: pull out my own curly tail. I soon get tired of standing in the back of the boat listening to the incessant drone of my engine, figure if it's charging it's charged by now, and shut down the engine and get out. Even in my current situation it has not evaded me how absolutely gorgeous it is out here.
The sky is blue and almost cloudless, and the water is calm but not without wave action, and a blue-green that would make the Carribean jealous. I've got sandy islands on either side of me, a few random low-water sand bars, and of course the mainland still looks welcomingly from the west. It's one of those scenes where you forget to take a picture of it. A little further in the water towards the inlet I remember one of the guys from the new party caught a respectible 17" flounder, and recently departed the spot, so I figure what the heck, I'll give it a shot. I'm not over there long and I hook a pretty 15" flounder. Great dinner, if it was only a half inch longer and legal. On top of that everbody has gone back up the beach to move the camp down to where the boat is, so I have no witnesses. Of course. But I don't care, I'm happy. I caught my frickin fish of the trip. The camp gets moved back, and Mary and Eric get in on the hot action.
Eric lands one about the same size as my 15" and a significantly shorter one from the back of the boat. Mary pulls in a nice 12" from the same spot I was working. We spend a bit more time just soaking up the scenery and occasionally working the curlytails, the ONLY thing attracting a bite. Then, as promised, our guy who towed us earlier in the brown skiff is back to check on us. I give him the update that I think we're okay, but we all simultaneously agree that if we were followed back in it would make us all a bit more comfortable. So we load the boat in record time, push off, and are underway. The boat hums like the first time I put it in water and we make it back with the obligatory number of bottom draggings, and Mr. Savior turns up toward his unknown destination while we head for the creek leading to the campground.
I learn something every time I put a boat in the water. That's the main reason my first boat only cost $3000 (not this one). I did every wrong thing but sink it while learning, and I figure that even that fate is waiting somewhere for me in my future. This lesson: always charge the battery at night when not in use, and have a backup system in place. We got kind of lucky. SeaTow is always a radio call away, but there's the wait, the embarrassment, and the however many hundred dollars. But in the end we got to witness what is left of North Carolina's unspoiled "outer" banks, and with a Memorial Day crowd of about 3 other boats. I'll take it. I'll do it again.
This time with a spare battery.
Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun, but mama... That's where the fun is!