OFF MY DOCK

A boater skirts a dis­as­ter of his own mak­ing.

Boating - - CERTIFIED TESTS - By Charles Plueddeman

The fun all started when Bud Jor­gensen fell over­board. Fun for us, any­way, stand­ing on the dock out­side the Lake View Inn, beers in hand, sur­vey­ing his predica­ment and spec­u­lat­ing on its out­come. In fact, that af­ter­noon turned out to be a high­light of our short sum­mer.

Bud had set forth in his 14-foot Alumacraft with his two chil­dren in tow on one of those in­flat­able tubes, which most fam­i­lies pull with a much big­ger boat. Bud is a “good enough” kind of guy and was out to prove to his sub­teen prog­eny that his fish­ing boat could pro­duce as much fun as the neigh­bor’s Mondo-Craft. And so, he twisted the tiller throt­tle on the 15 hp out­board and pro­ceeded on a course of fig­ure eights to bet­ter swing the tube to and fro and send it bounc­ing over the in­creas­ingly large wake.

An older Alumacraft like Bud’s is a dash­ing craft with low free­board and rounded chines, and at some point, he looked back at the kids scream­ing on the tube and the twist­ing of his torso caused his arm to push the tiller fur­ther to port, and at that mo­ment he also hit the wake, and the lit­tle boat rolled, and Bud knew he was screwed as soon as his el­bow touched the wa­ter.

Be­cause you are a Boat­ing reader and thus smarter than the av­er­age bear, I know that if you were at the tiller of this boat, you would cer­tainly have worn a life jacket and would have clipped the kill-switch tether to that flota­tion de­vice. Heck, you’d do both be­fore start­ing your Grady Canyon 456. Bud does not read Boat­ing, and when he sur­faced, he found his boat be­gin­ning to turn a slow, lazy cir­cle with the mo­tor hard to port. The kids had ditched the tube and were bob­bing out of harm’s way. Jackie Quade saw the events un­fold from her dock and raced out on a WaveRun­ner to pick up the kids, and then tossed Bud her own life jacket — after giv­ing him the same stink eye he knew he’d soon get from his wife.

This in­ci­dent could have been tragic, of course, and not a laugh­ing mat­ter. But ev­ery­one was safe, and so when we ran out to the dock to get a look, we im­me­di­ately be­gan con­jec­ture on how long the boat would keep turn­ing in a cir­cle, now with the tube lodged be­low its bow. Wager­ing com­menced, and I had the ad­van­tage of 33 years spent col­lect­ing fuel-flow data for this pub­li­ca­tion. As­sum­ing Bud started the week­end with a topped-off 6-gal­lon tank and that the en­gine was run­ning at 1,500 rpm, I fig­ured it would take seven hours to con­sume the fuel supply. The mo­tor even­tu­ally sput­tered, and I did win the case of beer, which lasted longer than the gas in Bud’s Alumacraft.

Be­cause you are a Boat­ing reader and thus smarter than the av­er­age bear, I know that if you were at the tiller of this boat, you would cer­tainly have worn a life jacket and would have clipped the kill-switch tether to that flota­tion de­vice.

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