Dead in the water (Part II)

We woke up to clear skies and a forecast for calm seas, so we gathered all the gear, snagged a quick bite for breakfast, and were off in a flash to fuel the boat for a day offshore. About 10 minutes after launching, we passed a small boat with two fishermen who waved us down.  As we puttered over, I hoped they didn’t think we were Coast Guard (our vessel’s previous home).  Turns out all they needed was a tow—apparently their water pump had broken, leaving them dead in the water with a nearly overheated engine.  We were happy to help, and with Grace at the helm we brought them safely back to the boat ramp, made sure they were all set at the dock, and headed out for a second time.

Those fishermen were not our only experience with a disabled boat today.  We got about twenty minutes from the ramp this time, when Selkie’s engine suddenly stopped, lurching the boat forward.  We tried everything, but our poor Yamaha just wouldn’t turn over.  As it turns out, having an electric motor also serves as a great backup if the engine unexpectedly shuts down.

Now, the Selkie is a pretty heavy boat, so even with the electric motor, we can only make a few knots with no current or wind.  But the ocean had other plans. Our little electric motor spun its propellers as hard as it could, but alas, it was no match for the outgoing tide.  At one point, we were definitely moving backwards.

We succumbed to the irony of the situation and hailed a sport fishing vessel.  They came right over and wasted no time in getting us set up to tow.  They seemed in good spirits, admitting that they “didn’t really have a plan” for their day—they were just out to enjoy the weather and hopefully catch something.  They had, however, planned for lunch, and they brought out their sub sandwiches and Doritos.  Boy, did those look good.  After traveling at what seemed like lightspeed compared to our electric motor, we arrived safely at the dock and sent our new friends on their way.

Our adventure wasn’t quite over yet, though.  As we approached the dock, there was another vessel in our path.  The looks on their faces were priceless as we shouted that we lost our engine and had limited steering.  They moved fairly quickly, and we managed to commandeer an innocent bystander to catch lines.  As it turns out, the bystander was retired Coast Guard, and another man who came over to help was retired Navy.  So including our five fishermen from two vessels this morning, we made all kinds of friends today.

Apart from breaking down and needing a tow, it really was a lovely afternoon—we had gorgeous weather, met some interesting folks, and even saw a couple of dolphins.  We managed to get the boat back onto the trailer, dropped it off at the house, and ended our “day in the field” with ice cream in downtown Fernandina.


Jessica McCordic

Masters Student, Parks Lab

P.S. —  Be sure to read Dead in the water for an earlier adventure in boat malfunctions.

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