Monday, June 27, 2005

Boat, Beach and Burning Rubber

A light breeze from the south and a quick exit from work allowed me to make the 20 minute run to Cape Lookout National Seashore this afternoon. Fishing has been as poor this year as I can remember and I thought I would try some different spots and even if nothing cooperated, the scenery is unparalleled. The boat ramp was nearly empty as I launched the boat about 5:30 and I hugged the shore of Carrot Island to see if I could spot some bait. Hell, this year I haven't even been able to net any bait save for four small shrimp weekend before last. No luck so I gunned the boat out of the no wake zone, through the green and red buoys at the mouth of Taylor's Creek and around the first red daymark. Four hundred yards and I made the 90 degree cut that put Cape Lookout Lighthouse directly off my bow in the distance. It was dead low tide so I stayed in the channel and got to the lighthouse without passing another boat in either direction. The lighthouse glowed in the afternoon sun, last year's paint job still looking new. I never get tired of seeing it-its diamond pattern has guarded ships from the dangerous Cape Lookout Shoals that extend like a finger out twenty miles from the furthest spit of land. Here is how it looked today:

I snapped this shot then went out Barden's Inlet to the ocean side on a quest for bait. I threw the net for an hour and came up empty. The bait was so tiny it just got strained out the net as it was pulled up. Back inside the bight I hugged the eastern shoreline looking for bait, fish-anything of interest. I saw some birds busting into the water but it just lasted a second and they were gone. I sat on the poling platform and drank a couple of beers and drifted around in the nearest marsh that was filling up with rising tide. I looked inside the live well and low and behold there was a shrimp still in there from two weeks ago-still scooting around on the bottom. Lucky for me-unlucky for him although he was never gonna get out of there alive anyway. I put him on a hook and suspended him beneath a popping cork and lobbed him to the edge of an oyster bar. A minute later I cranked in a pissed off fish. I hoped it was a speckled trout, something good to eat but as it got closer I could tell it was just a small bluefish showing it's ass. Bluefish never look happy. They have this snubbed nose and jaws that are constantly chomping and an all-round bad attitude. This one bit off my line, fell onto the back of the boat and flipped itself out before I could kick it out. Little bastard. Out of bait, I put on an artificial, synthetic bait called a Fishbite- supposed to smell like the real thing to the fish and I must say, I've had pretty good luck with them. My next cast was right up against the bank and when I checked it ten minutes later, I had hooked a 3-inch sea bass. Un-freakin' real. I tried the marsh, then about dusk I made a run to Beaufort Inlet which proved equally as fishless. It was dark and time to head in.
My friend Scott likes to say that "nothing good ever happens at the boat ramp." This is true. Getting your boat in and out of the water properly can't really be considered a "good" thing-it's supposed to be the norm. So anything abnormal that happens is therefore "bad." I've probably launched and re-trailered my boat 500 hundred times without much incident. I've had the dead battery thing a couple of times and I've broken off my trailer guides by being too aggressive five or six times, but tonight's episode takes the cake for sheer ridiculousness.

My trailer guides, the PVC poles that sit vertically on each side of the trailer to guide the boat directly onto the bunks have been snapped off for a month. I have seen no need to replace them until tonight. My trailer has two bunks or rails that cradle the boat underneath and aloow it to center itself. I usually back the trailer about halfway in the water, guide it onto the bunks, make sure it's centered then gun it up to the "stop," then hook the safety chain and then the wench. I can do this in my sleep by myself-it is a very trailer friendly boat. Tonight I backed the trailer in, set the parking brake, got into the boat and gunned it up on the trailer. Little did I know that I had backed the trailer in too far and the boat did not center but floated undetected over the left plastic wheel well. I did not know this until a mile down the road when a car behind me blew his horn. I craned my neck out the window, looked back and saw smoke pouring out from behind the trailer tire. I thought at first I had burned out a wheel bearing but I hadn't heard the tell-tale squealing and those don't smell like Akron, Ohio on fire. I pulled into a sidestreet and went back to survey the damage and saw the left side of the boat boat sitting on top of the plastic wheel well. The boat had mashed the plastic onto the tire and the tire burned it's way through the plastic and even burned the bottom of the hull. I tried to push it off the plastic well but the boat was melted onto it. I couldn't drive it anywhere, even back to the ramp to re-launch and re-trailer it properly so I contemplated my few options. I decided to unhook the trailer, turn my truck around and use the front bumper to push the boat off the well and onto the trailer properly. I gave it a good shove with the car which just sent the trailer spinning-there was no resistance to push against. I had by now attracted a small crowd that offered their help. I hooked the trailer back up to the truck, convinced that the eight of us, including three 20-something studs could lift and push the boat off the well. Wrong again-heavy boat melted onto plastic well is one tough cookie. The old dude who had seen my previous comical attempt to ram it on with my truck told me to try that again-they would hold the tongue wheel still so there would be some resistance this time. One good push and it was off the wheel well but I had also pushed it cockeyed in the other direction. Still it was drivable. I thanked them profusely, made it back to the ramp and launched it back into the water. There was a guy who asked me what I was going fishing for and I had to explain the whole sordid tale to him or he would think I had some disorder that compelled me to launch and re-trailer boats instead of fishing out of them. I got it on properly, drove it to the boatwash, then home where I surveyed the unique damage. I can't wait to explain this look to every Joe at the boat ramp for the next month. As my old friend Cliff Barrett would say, "What a maroon."


Anonymous Vin said...

All I want to know is if the boat is okay for the weekend....I've got some clamming to do.

7:54 AM  

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