Friday, December 23, 2011

First time for everything, part II

Skirting the rail along my boat, I shuffle along the cabin to my stern.   I look down into the water and sure as shit I can see net piled all around my props.  Another stream of swear words comes out of my mouth, which seems like the next appropriate action.  I skirt the rail again and back inside.  I get back on the radio and report to Lenny that I just ran over my net and I need to know what to do now.

He tells me I need to raise the lower unit so I can reach the props with my net wrench and preform surgery.  A net wrench is a technical term for a knife used to cut net. 

So I turn the key and am jolted by the sound of my loathsome low oil pressure alarm.  I push the toggle switch and hit the button to raise my lower unit.  I hear the motor whine, but I don’t hear the higher pitch sound it makes when it’s raised all the way up.  I figure enough time has passed for my unit to have gone up, as this gauge doesn’t really work either.

I tell Lenny I’ll call him in a few and head for the stern with my knife in hand.  Easing my way down to my swim step, which is a fiberglass platform mounted on the stern just above the water line for times like these, I quickly realize just how small it actually is.  It’s about a foot and half wide and about two feet long but the angle of the stern makes balancing on impossible.  I need one hand to hold on or I’ll fall into the drink.  So, with my net wrench one hand and my rail in the other, I’m ready to operate and remove my net from my egg beaters.  Egg beaters is another name for duel props or duel propellers.  One prop is big and one is small and they spin in different directions.   It’s more efficient that having just one big prop, but the down side is when you run over your net, the net gets tangled in the action.  As a result, the engine cuts itself.  

But as I get down there I notice my unit did not go up.  It’s sticking straight down about 2 ½ feet and I can’t reach it.  The lower unit is on a hydraulic hinge so as it rises, it comes up at an angle.  This allows a guy (or in this case, a gal) to access the props, to change them or cut web away from them and what not.

I know there is a release lever down there somewhere as I used it when my boat was on land.  I launch my hand into the cold clear water.  It’s not long before it stings. I feel around for it and find it but I can’t release the lever and raise my unit manually while holding on with one hand.  Besides once I get it up, how will it stay up?  I need some line.  I head back to the deck and grab a piece of line.  I come back to the stern and tie one end to the railing mounted on the stern.  I then thread the line around the lower unit and reach my hand into the cold ocean again searching for the lever.  I realize this plan is only going to work in theory.  I need a third hand, which I don’t have since I fish along. Deflated, I go back inside and call Lenny again for an update and advice.  He says he just pick up his gear then will head over.

I take a moment to survey my surroundings.  I’m in a good spot, really.  No much current, no one around me.  I’m out far enough away from the beach and rocks.  No eminent danger.  The weather is even nice.  All in all, a good spot to be dead in the water.

Lenny pulls up next to me.  I tie up a few buoys up and throw him a line.  He secures his boat to mine, comes aboard, gives me a kiss, then heads for the cabin.  He tries to raise the lower unit.  Again, we hear the motor going, but nothing happens.  I tell him my plan to use the release lever, lift the unit manually and tie it up.  We both scamper to the stern, one on each swim step.  This time he offers to plunge his hand into the cold water to reach the lever.  I let him.  As he does, I lift the unit.  So far so good.  I grab the line but we are unable to tie it up.  We just can’t get the right angle on it.   It’s too heavy for just one person to hold it while the other cuts the net away.  Now what?
I tell him I’ll grab my snorkel and mask,  hop in my survival suit  dive down and cut it out that way.

The look he shot me was priceless,  as if to say “there is no way in hell I’m going to sit here and let you get in that icy cold water.   “You are not jumping into the water” he says with clear disapproval of my idea.   “Lenny, it will be fine. I’ll get in my survival suit and you will be right here if anything happens”.  “No” he sighed. “I’ll go.”  

He hops back to his boat and emerges a few moments later in his bright orange “Gumby” suit, otherwise known as a survival suit.  A survival suit is a type of waterproof dry suit that helps protects from hypothermia in cold water.  They typically have built in feet, a hood, and built in gloves.  These gloves normally have two fingers and a thumb making dexterity impossible, hence the name “Gumby suit”.

I try not to chuckle as Lenny comes aboard in this bright orange suit, as he is doing me a huge favor.  I offer him my mask and snorkel, but it’s too small, he has to do without.

He scurries to the stern and lowers himself down into the water.  “Is it cold” I ask, feeling a bit guilty that he is getting in the water instead of me.  “What do you think?” was his reply.  I hand him the knife.  He takes a breath and dives under.  His feet pop up and fill with the air in the suit.  He comes up with a gasp.   His face is already a reddish purple from the cold, and he was only under about 20 seconds.  He shoots me a look as he takes another deep breath and dives back down.  After a few dives he ends up with a handful of web.  I help him aboard and I try the engine.  It fires up.  I don’t know if he got all the web clear, but he got enough. 
I thank him profusely.  He stoically says “Ah-huh, you’ll get my bill”.  I smile and thank him again. “Thank you, Lenny” I draw out in my cutest sing song voice. 

He hops back aboard his boat, unties and pulls away.  I get back to business.  I suit up in my rain gear and carefully, giving it a wider berth than necessary, I run to the end of my net and pick up. 

I wish I could say I learned my lesson that day and never ran over again but I ran it over three more times that season.  Having used my one and only get out of jail free card, I had to jump in the water myself to cut it out. 

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