Well, Friday I decided that it had been too long since my last fishing trip, so I decided I would take the Pathfinder over to the Titusville area and see what I could find in the Indian River Lagoon, or maybe in the northern part of Mosquito Lagoon.
Thursday evening I hooked up the battery charger and charged the two trolling motor batteries and the two engine starting batteries, and I also gave the engine a ten second run just to make sure it would start.
Everything checked out fine, so I loaded four rods, my auto-inflating PFD, hand-held VHF radio, some drinks, etc. into the boat and hooked it up to the truck. We have a fenced yard, so I just back the truck up to where the boat is stored
and leave it there all night. That way, the HOA nazis have nothing to whine about and I can make an early escape without having to go through the whole hooking-up routine in the dark.
Got up around 5:45 Friday morning and headed out. It’s about an hour drive, plus it takes a few minutes to stop and get bait and a few more minutes once I get to the ramp, to get the boat prepped for launch, so I was on the water at about 7:30.
The water was glassy-calm, the sun was out, it was already very hot, but once I got her up on plane heading north,the wind cooled me off just fine.
There’s a railroad bridge a few miles north of the ramp I use. The bridge crosses the Indian River Lagoon from east to west, (or west to east, I guess) and carries a rail line that is used exclusively to transport things to and from the Kennedy Space Center. The movable span is normally left in the open position so you can just zip right on through. The only times I’ve seen the bridge down was when they were working on it, and I’ve never seen a train actually cross the bridge. I fished a bit along the causeway leading to the bridge, but nobody seemed to be home.
Since nothing was hitting there, I decided to go another ten or so miles north into the north part of Mosquito Lagoon, and then work my way back south as the day progressed.
I gave her some throttle and she jumped up on plane, and we were off. It was calm, it was sunny, it was nice.
To go by water from the Indian River Lagoon to the Mosquito Lagoon, one must go through a man-made canal called Haulover Canal. It’s named that because in the very early days, way before Justin Bieber, people used the narrow strip of land where the canal is now, to literally haul their boats overland between the two water bodies. It was the narrowest spot, so it was the most logical place to engage in that somewhat strenuous activity. Now imagine for a moment that you are an early settler, dressed in woolen clothes, in Florida’s summer heat, trying to schlep a wooden boat across dry land. Personally, I think that’s why God invented trailers.
The canal is about a mile long, and because it’s wet, the state of Florida has designated it as a manatee zone. Sea cows have been protected for many years, but as late as the 1950’s, or maybe even later in some more remote areas, people would “harvest” them for meat. These were not the people who now go to the supermarket for free-range chicken, these were the people who knew 50 ways to cook a squirrel. Manatees are basically a large, rather bulbous package of meat, people needed meat to eat, ergo, manatees were on the “things-to-eat” list.
In this area and any other area that’s been designated as a manatee zone, (about 99% of everything in Florida it seems) you have to go slow, or the water cops can getcha with about a zillion dollar ticket for excessive speed in a manatee zone.
I say, let Darwin’s theory do its job. Remove the speed restrictions and if the fast ones are the ones that survive, then pretty soon, all we’ll have are fast manatees. Problem solved.
Or we start farming them. I mean, nobody gets all whiny if Farmer John offs Bessie and cuts her up into her component parts in preparation for a barbeque, but let a manatee get a boo boo from a boat prop, and you’d think that the world was coming to an end. Let’s start manatee farms, and sell manatee steaks at Publix. Hey, what’s the difference?
I’ll probably get my name on the Save the Manatees hit list for that one.
But I digress.
As I was making my way (slowly, slowly) through the canal, the boat motor started to make decidedly unpleasant noises and abruptly stopped. I tried to start it several times, and it would catch and then die. Finally, all it would do is crank. No fire. Not good.
I thought about doing some on the water diagnostics, but quickly abandoned that idea, rationalizing that even if I got it running again, I wouldn’t enjoy the day, just waiting for it to go kaput again.
So, I called Tow Boat/US. We have the Gold policy with them, which is supposed to get us towed from wherever we are to wherever we want to go, within certain very liberal limits. Never had to use it before, so I was curious to see what we’d get for our premium payments. They answered quickly and asked for my member number and some info about the boat, then asked for latitude/longitude. I gave them all this and they put me on hold for a moment, another guy came on, said he was the tow boat operator and was going to be coming from Titusville (which is where I wanted to go, fortunately), and for me to “stay where I was” and he’d be on his way.
“Stay where I was”…yeah, like with a dead motor, I’m gonna start paddling like mad to get somewhere else just for the pure joy of making him look for me.
Any way, about 30 minutes later, he pulled up, tossed me a line to clip to the bow eye, and we very unceremoniously started off with him in the lead and me trundling along a few yards off his stern.
Now it would have been a very uneventful hour and forty-five minute trip except that when we were about a mile from the ramp, this humongous RIB came at us out of nowhere.
For those who aren’t up on nautical acronyms, a RIB is a Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boat. A fairly standard-looking fiberglass (rigid) hull, surrounded by inflatable tubes.
This thing was really moving, and they dropped down off plane when they realized they were about to pass a tow. Very sportsmanlike of them. The RIB was at least 30 feet long, black as midnight, and the bow stood at least 6 or 7 feet off the water. Nobody in it was in any sort of uniform as far as I could see, but it had very special shock-absorbing seats favored by SEALS and other military types. This was a very serious, sea-going vessel, and it was obvious from the accoutrements, it was destined to have a few .50 caliber gun mounts (at least) installed before it was delivered to the ultimate owner. I got this grainy shot of it with my Iphone as they turned to go back.
When they throttled up, that thing jumped on plane faster then my Pathfinder does, and they were at full scoot in about four seconds. The tow boat captain said he’s seen it around, and rumor has it that it’s going to the Saudi navy. Wherever that thing’s going, it’s gonna put the fear of Allah into somebody.
I got back to the ramp, signed the form that he handed me, looked at the price I would have been charged, and decided right there, that the premiums for Gold membership are a pretty good deal. He cast me off as I tied up to the dock, and went his way. I pulled the boat onto the trailer and left for home, thinking that it would have been a much more productive day if I’d just gone to work.