Small Stuff

This year's "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" Award goes to—roll the drums— Pat Piper, the editor of BoatUS Trailering Magazine. Pat’s unlikely adventure began while he was sailing alone in his 24-foot sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay. Actually “sailing” is an exaggeration; Pat was drifting on a near-windless, steamy-hot day. After several hours ghosting through the water he suddenly found that he was surrounded by a small flotilla of weekend fishing boats. Pat was bored, so using a fishing pole that someone left on his boat, he decided to join the fun. It should be noted that Pat is not a fisherman.

He says he doesn’t remember whether he used a bare hook or a lure, but after a few minutes he got a bite. A big bite. The first few tugs were exciting but then the boat started moving backwards, just like in the movie Jaws.

Pat tried to reel in the fish while at the same time steering in reverse so that the boat would track in a straight line. While he was fumbling with the rod and tiller, he overheard someone on his VHF talking about “the rag-bagger” who had hooked something big and HIS BOAT WAS MOVING BACKWARD! The guy sounded excited. Pat’s VHF was soon buzzing with chatter about some sailboat that was being dragged around by a big fish. The fact that guys who fish every weekend were excited about whatever it was at the other end of Pat’s line made him nervous.

Not surprisingly, the fish got away. Pat said he was relieved. When he finally arrived back to his dock, a neighbor told him he’d overheard an incredible story on his VHF about some guy in a sailboat who had hooked a giant fish. And the fish had pulled the boat backward! Pat didn’t know what to say, so he smiled and changed the subject.

First runner-up honors go to Scott Croft, who, as the AVP of Public Relations at BoatUS, is always looking for good boating stories about BoatUS employees. In this case, the story is about him. Late one night this past July, Scott was helping a friend deliver his sailboat back from a race on the Hudson River near Nyack to its homeport in Chelsea, New York. As they were passing through the Hudson Highlands, Scott said the full moon, sparkling water and towering cliffs reminded him of a painting from the Hudson River School. Scott notices stuff like that.

It’s the more mundane, everyday types of things that can sometimes escape Scott’s attention. Shortly after they rounded a bend in the river, he said a brilliant light suddenly illuminated the boat “like it was daylight.” Somewhere off in the distance, a tug and barge had been coming at them very quickly and its skipper obviously thought Scott and his buddy should know. They responded by making a quick 90-degree turn and shoving the throttle forward.

Scott said they didn’t have a clue the tug was there, most likely because its navigation lights were lost among the lights on shore—backscatter. Aside from keeping a sharper eye out for lights that may be hard to see, Scott says he’ll cruise outside the main channel whenever possible.

Seaworthy receives a lot of emails from faraway places, including these photos of a sailboat that was stranded on Nai Harn Beach in Thailand. The photos had been passed around on the internet and were forwarded to Seaworthy by Bill Livingston, a member in Mexico.

Judging by the size of the waves, the anchorage doesn’t appear to be very well protected. A photo caption said the boat had been left unattended and wound up on the beach after a wind shift. The 1.5- inch rope from the salvage tug broke six or seven times before it finally held and the sailboat was dragged back to deep water. Damage to the sailboat appears to be minimal.

The moral: Don’t leave your boat unattended when it’s in an exposed anchorage. Or, better yet, don’t anchor in an area that isn’t well protected. Finally, keep in mind that, thanks to the Internet, your mistakes could be seen by thousands of people all over the world.

Terri Parrow Botsford, VP of Internet Operations, recently got an iPad and has been on a quest to read as many things as she can on its 9.7-inch screen. Thanks to Terri, Seaworthy is available for Kindle app readers at Amazon: Kindle. The cost is $0.99 per issue. Note that BoatUS members can also read Seaworthy on their tablets for free, albeit in the slightly less user-friendly PDF format.

Terry Hill called Seaworthy this past July to report a strange snail that had begun showing up in engine intakes, causing a few to overheat. Terry is a TowBoatUS tower in Woodbridge, Virginia and also the owner of a local repair facility, Potomac Marine, which gives him a leg up at spotting trends on the upper Potomac River. Last year, Terry saw one or two boats with the snails and shrugged it off. This year, he says the problem has become much worse, with dozens of boats being affected. The snails are becoming rampant, threatening to disrupt the area’s ecosystem. When some of Terry’s friends scooped up a handful of the creatures, they soon discovered that snails quickly give off a terrible odor ("very stinky—ugh"). As for the boats, anything that has the potential to restrict the flow of cooling water has the potential to wreck engines. One of the boats in Terry’s yard had $4,000 damage to one of its engines. Terry is afraid that the sudden appearance of the snails is only going to get worse.

Terry did some research and found out the snails are called Chinese mystery snails, Japanese mystery snails, or Asian mystery snails. Whatever you call them, they most likely found their way into the nation’s waterways after being released from someone’s aquarium, perhaps as far back as the 1940s. They are capable of reproducing quickly and can grow to about the size of a walnut. (The “mystery” has to do with the way their fully developed young mysteriously appear.) It seems that it’s the younger snails—ones that are smaller than an eraser head—that have been getting into the engine intakes.

Like the better-known zebra mussels, the mystery snails are capable of doing considerable damage to an engine if enough of them take up residence in the boat’s raw-water intake.

The damage is not covered by insurance. To guard against snails, mussels and anything else that might take up residence in your intake, make it a habit of checking the flow of exhaust water every time you start your engine. Glance at the temperature gauges regularly and consider installing an engine overheat alarm if you don’t already have one. The latter gives you peace of mind, especially in areas where these sorts of interlopers are becoming commonplace.

Regarding invasive species, a lot of press has been given to the bony (and ugly) Asian silver carp, which have been crowding out indigenous game fish on many of the nation’s waterways. Whenever they hear a boat engine, the carp leap into the air, frequently smacking into boats and people. As far as most boaters are concerned, they’re at the very top of the nuisance scale.

The word nuisance doesn’t describe what happened this past summer when a “fish” leaped aboard a research vessel in South Africa. The Cape Times, a South African newspaper, reported that the researchers heard a splash and saw a great white shark hovering above the stern. It came down half in and half out of the boat. The researchers hoped—prayed—that the flailing creature would work its way back into the water. Instead, the 10-foot, 1,200-pound shark fell inside the boat and continued its flailing. Luckily they were in a large boat.

Even luckier, at least for the shark, the researchers were researching great white sharks; without creatures like the one flopping around on their boat’s stern, they’d be out of work. Once the shark had settled down, the researchers poured water over its gills to keep it alive and quickly headed back to the dock. Using a crane, the great white was hoisted off the boat and placed back into the water. The Cape Times article said the shark thrashed around for a few seconds and then swam quietly toward the harbor entrance.

It’s almost winter, a time of quiet reflection, long walks, evenings by the fireplace, and for anyone who yearns to be back on the water—let’s be honest here—a time of BOREDOM and COLD. If you’re looking for some action, but not too much, consider taking a boating course offered by the Power Squadron or Coast Guard Auxiliary. The courses are free and they’re held in heated buildings.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers courses in Sailing Skills and Seamanship, Boating Safety, America’s Boating Course®, Suddenly in Command, Global Positioning System (GPS) for Mariners, Personal Watercraft, Weekend Navigator, and How to Read a Nautical Chart. The Power Squadron offers their well-regarded Boat Smart and Chart Smart courses.

To learn about locations and times for these and other courses, check the BoatUS Foundation CourseLine:

Dan LeBlanc, who transports boats all over the country, sent along this photo of a large megayacht he saw at a Florida boatyard. Dan didn’t think much of the blocking job done by the yard. Aside from the shaky supports under the keel, note that the jack stands aren’t chained together, as is recommended by the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) TY-28 standard for Boat Lifting and Storage.

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How did this golf cart in Santa Fe, Texas land on top of a boat (Claim #0911261)?

The boat was kept in a boathouse that also doubled as a garage. A woman was driving the cart into the garage when she was distracted by a bee. (Texas has a lot of killer bees, which are definitely distracting.) She lost control of the cart, ran onto the boat’s foredeck and smashed through the windshield. No injuries other than to the boat.