OFF MY DOCK
A boater skirts a disaster of his own making.
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.