To pull a boat

You guessed it—Dead in the water, Part II wasn’t the end of our troubles with R/V Selkie’s engine.  As Leanna’s and my last day on the water, we got to experience one of the more interesting aspects of marine fieldwork: when things go wrong (and get resolved in unexpected ways).

After our engine trouble the previous day, Grace took Selkie to the boatyard early in the morning, where they identified (as predicted) a problem with one of the electrical components deep in the belly of the beast.  Apparently this was a quick fix, and we were up and running later in the afternoon.  We set out from Fernandina and were traveling to a previous sighting of a mother/calf pair when a right whale popped up in front of our boat!  It was a lone juvenile, and it wasn’t particularly cooperative.  The choppy seas weren’t helping, but to our surprise, just as we were about to leave, the whale surfaced and spent some time logging at the surface, allowing us to “sneak up” and get some really good shots.  Since it’s so young, it doesn’t have an official catalog number yet.  When our whale went down again, we had just heard of a more recent mom/calf sighting not too far from our current position!

Soon enough we were skimming across the waves towards this new sighting when everything came to a sudden stop.  Again.  After the previous day’s adventure, we were all less than thrilled at the prospect of needing a tow from 7 miles offshore.  Luckily, Dana had the magic touch and was able to convince the engine to turn over.  Not wanting to risk being stranded, we headed back to Fernandina, foregoing the mother and calf sighting.

We were able to arrive safely at the dock, but the low tide and shallow launching area had other plans for our trip from the dock to the trailer.  Our engine managed to suck up a fair bit of mud and silt before dying again.  Since the water was too shallow, we couldn’t even use the electric motor.  So we went about it the old-fashioned way.  Brute force.

Susan, Leanna, and I grabbed some lines from Selkie and pulled.  And pulled.  Dana was waist-deep next to the trailer, ready to guide Selkie into position. We were making some progress when the team from the R/V Maverick showed up willing to help.  I, for one, was relieved to have extra hands to help with pulling, allowing us to divide and conquer where and how we pulled. 

At one point it seemed like the Selkie was a bright orange, 4000-pound marionette being strung up and maneuvered in every which way possible.  Little by little, we heaved her off the mud and towards the ramp.

Eventually, we had her on our trailer.  And it wasn’t even dark.  Job well done, everybody!

And thus, refreshed by the North Atlantic, good whale sightings, and the general camaraderie of marine folk, it’s time to (reluctantly…) go back to snowy Syracuse.

 Jessica McCordic

Masters Student, Parks Lab

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