03/31/12

Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
Hatching:
1.    Blue-winged Olives and Little BWOs
2.    Blue Quills
3.    Quill Gordons
4.    Little Short Horned Sedges
5.    Little Brown Stoneflies
6.    Hendricksons & Red Quills
7.    American March Browns

Most available/ Near hatching and/or other types of available food:
8.    Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)

My Almost Sad Boating Story
I don't think there's anything that made me any more happy than taking my father deep
sea fishing. He took me from the time I was a very young boy and to be able to take
him, on my own boat, was always nothing short of wonderful. At the time of this story, I
had a 27 foot twin engine inboard/outboard Sportscraft that I had completely rebuilt
from the hull up. I even built the stringers and everything else from a bare hull up,
doing almost all the work, including all the fiberglass work. I converted it into a pure
fishing boat with a completely open deck to where four people could bottom fish or troll.
It had a cabin I also stripped out completely and used mostly to store fishing gear
although it had two bunks.

The project took me almost two years and is something that I wished and I never
started, but wouldn't take anything for doing it once I finished it. I had replaced both
Mercruiser engines, which are really Chevy truck engine blocks with marine items
added. The only thing that wasn't new was the two outdrives. I no sooner got the boat
finished than one of the outdrives started giving me problems. I had a local Orange
Beach, Alabama marine service company, I won't name, replace a gear in the outdrive.
To do that, the standard procedure is to drill a hole in the outdrive housing large
enough to get to the gear. The hole in the housing is then plugged with a special kit
Mercruiser has for that purpose. When the boat is siting in the water, the area the hole
is drilled is below the water line. On plane, the area is well above the water line.

They had just finished (well, almost as you'll soon find out) when dad came down to
fish. I had them launch the boat from the dry dock that morning with the fork lift and as
soon as it hit the water my cameraman, Tommy Powers, my dad and I headed out. I ran
through back bay to the Intercoastal waterway and down it to Pensacola pass, which is
about twenty miles or so. At the pass I headed offshore to the Trysler Grounds, an
area of rough bottom a few miles offshore.  

During this trip, approximately 35 miles or so, I was on plane almost all of the time. I
planned on bottom fishing but when I got there, we discovered there were large
schools of king mackerel in the area, so I started out drifting the area to get a limit of
them before bottom fishing. That's much more fun than trolling. You just cast away from
the boat as you drift along with the current and wind. When I got off my Loran numbers,
I would crank the boat and relocate upwind to make another drift. Tommy and my dad
were catching two kings at a time and I was acting as the mate for them.

About the forth time I moved the boat, I noticed the boat ran sluggish. I thought I would
just put in on plane to get it running better but when I gunned the engines, it bogged
down and wouldn't come up out of the water. The boat  will usually jump up on plane
quickly and run about 30 knots. It wouldn't do 3 knots. While I was trying to figure out
what was wrong with the engines, Tommy opened the cabin door to get some tackle
and found it was completely filled with water level with the deck. The floor of the cabin
is about three feet below the deck level. That meant the entire hull was full of water to
the just under our feet on the deck. In other words, the entire boat hull was almost
three feet deep in water. We quickly ran back and opened the large cover over the
engines to see water was almost up to the top of the engines. It was within six inches of
the spark plugs on both engines. We put on our life jackets and got the emergency kit
out that was floating in the cabin. If the boat would have come up on plane, the bow
would have gone up enough and the stern down enough to cover the engines with
water and they would have both instantly died. Both batteries would also have been
covered with water.

I cut the two bilge pumps on and they began to shot water out of the hull but would
have probably taken the entire day to get it out. Meantime, although I didn't know the
source of the leak at the time, it would have continued to fill. During this time, Tommy
was using my 5 gallon bucket (something I wouldn't never get into any boat over 21
feet without having onboard, even if it was a new boat) to manually throw water out of
the bilge area as fast as he could.  He would give out and dad would try to take over
but he was in his sixties at the time and couldn't last very long. Tommy and I bailed
water for over an hour. Meantime, more water was coming into the boat. I let the
engines idle the entire time, praying they would continue to run. Water had covered
one battery and only one was located slightly above the water level. Thank goodness I
didn't have them wired in series but I did to where either one would work the electronics
and/or crank the engines.

We probably came within less than ten minutes of not having power to anything.
Without the 5 gallon bucket, we would have been drifting offshore praying for
someone to spot us sinking.
The batteries would have killed my fixed mounted VHF
radio and my portable VHF would  have been out of range of the Coast Guard. It may
have reached another boat but none were in sight at the time. We would have been
three scared men drifting the Gulf in life jackets like the guys I wrote about yesterday. I
doubt any of us would have made it but almost for certain, dad would probably not
have been able to last for very long. This was before the E.P.I.R.B.s.

Soon after it happened, I had Tommy jump overboard and dive under the hull to see  
where the water was coming from. He couldn't find anything. Climbing back into the
boat, he noticed the hole in the outdrive. I'll first say the main lack of precaution in this
case was me not checking the work done by the Marine Service company. That
became one of my boat safety tips in a revised version of my safety video later on. The
5 gallon bucket was already a top boating safety tip. It's not only good for that, it has
many other uses on a boat.

The number one big problem was the marine service company not being careful
enough to install the plug in the hole left in the outdrive they repaired. It requires a
good size hole in the outdrive, about an inch and a half in diameter or larger, and when
the boat was drifting or sitting still in the water, water came in the outdrive and on into
the bilge.
The bill was ready at the service center, but not the boat. I can't
describe the conversation I had with the man that owns and operates the very large
marine company. It's a wonder another tragedy didn't happen between us. His
company's complete lack of concern for safety, almost killed the three of us.

One other safety tip on my boating safety program was to always carry some 3M 5200
sealant. It comes in a caulking gun type container but don't apply it to anything you
ever need to remove. It will even work on wet surfaces and even if they are underwater.
How did we fix the leak. I cut open an aluminum coke can, flattened it out and covered
the perimeter of it  with 5200. I handed it to Tommy who got back in the water and  
stuck it over the hole which when drifting is under the water. I later had to chisel it off
and sand the area down to install the plug Mercruiser makes for that. Yes, I did it
myself. I didn't trust the marine company to use the right sealant.

Oh, don't think a new boat cures any problems. A friend purchased a new Scarab
$100,000 boat, filled it with 200 gallons of gas, launched it and tried to crank it, but the
twin outboards wouldn't fire up. The batteries were under gas.
Yes, under gas. He
filled the hull of the boat because someone didn't  connect the fill gas line to the tank
when the boat was built. God is the only one that knows why he and two others in the
boat were not blown up.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh