The skis are put away for the summer and the rust will be rubbed off of my golf clubs next weekend, but in the meantime I had to get our small boat into the water so I could make sure it would still float for yet another summer.
I backed the trailer down to the ramp at high tide, climbed up into the boat and started a long sequence of “Oops!”
I always try to start the motor before I launch the boat just to make sure the batteries are still working and no one has stolen vital parts of the motor during the winter. Both of the batteries were dead and upon close examination I discovered that they were five years old. Rather than trying to get another season out of them and having them run down while we are at anchor somewhere, I decided to buy a new set. This involved taking them out and driving to the local battery store which is on the other side of the island where I had to wait an hour for employees to fully charge them.
While I waited, the tide was going out and when I finally got back to my boat on the trailer at the ramp, the water was about 20 feet from the trailer and there was 10 feet of soft sand between the concrete ramp and the water. Thinking I was pretty smart not to try and launch the boat and get the car stuck in the sand at low tide, I pulled the boat up out of the way, parked the car and trailer and walked back home.
Early the next morning I was back at high tide. The last thing I do before I launch a boat is untie it from the trailer, but I leave a line tied to the boat so it won’t float away. This time I forgot that with bad batteries the bilge pump probably didn’t work all winter and there is probably a lot of rain water in the bottom of the boat. As I backed the trailer down the ramp and accidentally hit the brakes, I discovered that there were at least 300 gallons of rain water in the bottom of the boat because when I stopped the trailer the boat just kept going. It headed for the water and slid almost completely off the trailer.
I now had a boat full of water with the skeg resting on the concrete ramp in eight inches of water, the bow of the boat barely on the trailer and my four-wheel-drive car slipping and sliding on the mossy ramp. I had forgotten my rubber boots and so I was barefoot in the icy water almost up to my knees trying to figure out the magnitude of this disaster that I had gotten myself into.
With the 46-degree water up to my knees, I was already shivering when I took the risk that the skeg was planted firmly enough in the concrete so that I could back the trailer down the ramp and the boat would slide back up onto it. This of course didn’t work until I had led the metal skeg down the ramp six or eight feet to a small ledge that is designed to stop cars from going any further into deep water. At this point the boat began to creep back up onto the trailer and it looked like I might have made it if the back end of my car didn’t get too deep in the water.
I now had to wade back to the trailer once again and crank up the winch until the boat was back where it belonged on the trailer. I tied the bow down tight and then backed down even further until I saw the current start to make the back of the boat drift sideways off the trailer. I stopped the car, untied everything, waded out and climbed into the boat. It was then that I realized I still had my wallet in my back pocket and I was in waist deep water.
Fortunately the boat started quickly after sitting all winter, but it was really low in the water. There were ten inches of water in the boat, but the bilge pump was working and the rain water was being pumped out slowly at eight gallons a minute. It would be a toss up whether the water got out of the boat before I froze sitting there getting set for another summer of lurching from one near disaster to the next.
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