Everyone who knows me knows that fishing is part of my DNA, and owning a boat runs a close second. Boat ownership is something of a family legacy for me, with generations before me having either bought or built many boats over the years. In my family, boats speak to us, and God knows we answer with our checkbooks! Case in point: confronted with the need to move furniture some years ago, rather than get a trailer, my legendary Aunt Betty opted to buy a big Mako for the job. Guess she figured she’d have a nice boat when the move was over.
I bought my first boat somewhere around 2003. I knew zippo about boats and put my trust in my brother Dickie. He guided me to Ronnie’s Marine in Aransas Pass, where they had a Majek 20V on consignment. This used boat had promise as a learning vessel, and the price was right. Never mind that on our test run with the salesman, the water pump went out.
That shrill whistle indicating an overheated motor sent chills up my spine. The salesman raised the motor to let it cool off, and we idled back to the boat ramp. As a freshman boat owner, I thought a shot water pump spelled doomsday. I didn’t know it was nothing more than a little plastic pinwheel thing that is easy and sort of cheap to replace.
Ronnie’s replaced the water pump, and I bought the boat. It was with some degree of determined trepidation that I began to actually use it. On one of my first outings, my brother Tom and I launched the boat and not long after we got underway, I looked back and to my abject horror, the transom was just about under water. Yep, we didn’t put the plugs in. With my stomach in knots over what I just knew was our imminent sinking, Tom started the motor, opened the throttle wide, and we sped across the bay so that at least some of the water would work its way out of the hull.
I got the two plugs that were rolling around in one of the hatches, and readied myself for a rescue at sea. Tom slowed the boat down, and I lay on my belly with my head and arms hanging over the back of the boat. I found the receptacles for the plugs and screwed the rubber stoppers securely in. The hull still had plenty of water in it, and we were still listing pretty significantly, but at least the situation was under control. I was suddenly a much smarter boat owner: that was a fiasco that would never happen again, and by God it hasn’t.
I sold that boat and bought a brand new Majek 20V. I found that model to be a pretty good all-around boat, able to capably handle both rough chop and fairly shallow water. I got started with Yamaha boat motors, and haven’t strayed from that brand. Other than the water pump issue, they’ve never failed me…as a friend would say, “They start before they start”.
WHEN (WO)MAN PLANS, GOD LAUGHS
So, one day when I had a house on the Laguna Madre, my wonderful friend and fishing buddy and I took off in search of big fish down at a super spot known as the Meadows, near the mouth of Baffin Bay. We were loaded with great bait, cold beer, fried chicken, had blue skies and gentle winds. We were anticipating a magnificent day. Well…not so fast.
The Meadows is a good 45-minute boat ride, maybe even an hour, from our little canal. We’d gotten nearly all the way down there, when my trusty Yamaha suddenly shut down from my cruising speed of somewhere around 3800 rpm, to more like 1600. Yet, the throttle was in the same position as when we were underway.
Working with the throttle, I realized that it would only move a little bit, and wouldn’t allow me to shift into neutral or reverse. Thank goodness I didn’t turn off the motor! I couldn’t have gotten it started without being in neutral, and we would’ve been marooned way down there, at the mercy of whatever poor soul would come by and then have to tow us all the way back to Padre Isles.
With the motor still running, and the throttle stuck in forward, not only could we not go into neutral or reverse, we couldn’t stop. We were stuck in slow motion, and we certainly couldn’t fish.
So, we did the only thing we could do, and that was start the long, slow trip back to home base. Feeling defeated, what else could we do but open a beer and eat some fried chicken. What little throttle I did have allowed me to ooch into being on plane, so at least we could get some momentum. Still, we had a long way to go!
We had plenty of time to visit and relax, and enjoy the scenery along the Laguna Madre, which is lovely. Over and over, the fishing gods toyed with us, as we went past what looked to be really fishy spots, with bait and moving water, and all the ingredients for catching. Wondering what we might do if we did stop to fish, I took a look at our bait…it was dead!! Slapping my hand to my forehead in exasperation, I wondered what else would go wrong that day…one thing was for sure – we were NOT meant to fish!
Re-focusing back on the situation at hand, I knew we had to do some thinking about how to handle our dilemma. I knew the boat would need to go in for service after this failure, so the challenge was getting it onto the trailer. We had departed from the lift behind my house, and the trailer was parked in the driveway. So, here was the plan.
As soon as I was close enough to the bulkhead and cleat at the boat ramp, I’d turn off the motor and coast up to where I could tie the boat off. Once the motor was off, there was no starting it back up, so we would have to get the boat onto the trailer the old-fashioned way…with muscle and determination!
My friend left and walked to my house, which thankfully was just a few blocks away. She returned with the trailer hooked to my Suburban, and she backed the trailer in, extra far, so we could float the boat onto it and then, winch the boat the rest of the way up.
Knee-deep in water at the boat ramp, and miraculously avoiding slipping and falling, we eventually loaded the boat and winched it totally up on the trailer. We were very pleased with ourselves! We pulled the boat back over to my house, and then I called the mechanic at Ronnie’s, whose cell number I had in my phone.
He knew right away what the problem was. He instructed me to remove the cowling, and to go to the location of two rods that are controlled by the throttle, and that modulate the speed and spin of the prop.
It was clear that there were specific places for those rods, one of which was seated properly. The other had come out of its seat, likely on a somewhat rough ride south, and was jammed. It was a simple matter of bringing the jammed rod back up and replacing it in its bracket. Then, the throttle went up and back, just like it is supposed to. My confidence in my Yamaha motor was restored!
Feeling triumphant, and now with a fully functioning boat and daylight to burn, we decided we hadn’t had enough abuse. So we put the boat back in the water and went to a local spot to fish with lures. Predictably, and in line with the overall karma of the day, we caught nothing. We didn’t care. We were happy to have overcome our challenge and conclude the day on a positive note.
THE SILVER LINING
When you’ve had a day that starts out with fishing as the objective and some issue or another pops up, you look for the silver lining in the cloud of apparent misfortune. Yes, our plans were foiled because of a mechanical failure. But, we two ladies managed the situation, fixed the problem, and returned the boat to the lift. No we didn’t catch any fish, but then, we didn’t have to clean any fish, either. Nobody got hurt and above all, we had an abundance of laughs, enriched our friendship and made memories that will forever be part of the mosaic of our lives as individuals and as friends. My fishing trips with my brother Tom – my hero – have brought us even closer as big brother and little sister.
Fishing is like golf, or going out to eat, or any other activity that brings people together. While the activity may be why you gather, at the end of the day it’s really about being with people you care about. My journey as a cancer patient has crystallized for me the importance of relationships, and putting energy into being with others.
We are remembered not for what we did for a living, or how many fish we catch, but for how much we love, how loved we are, and how we make others feel. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the love in my life, both that which I receive and am blessed to give. My heart is full and my cup of blessings overflows. To each of you, Happy Thanksgiving, and may your days be filled with loaves, AND fishes!