July 25 – 27, 2014
We had been anxious to do another overnight trip on the boat, and this weekend seemed ideal. Calm seas were the priority, even though cloudy skies and rain were in the forecast.
We caught the 2:30 tunnel to a very rainy Whittier, but the launch was flawless! By 3:30 we were motoring out of the harbor. It was very foggy, but we didn’t plan to go far.
We dropped shrimp pots for the first time this trip. We sent four pots down into 350-450 feet of water near Ziegler Cove. From there we went into the cove and anchored. Clark took Tess and the kids to shore while I organized the cabin and prepared a spaghetti dinner.
We were cozy and warm in the cabin and played a game of pitch (Maggie just learned!) after dinner.
Later that night we pulled the anchor to go check our shrimp pots. We were thrilled to find 41 jumbo shrimp! They totaled about two gallons. What a delicious midnight snack for Clark and the kids!
We dropped the pots again and were optimistic about how many shrimp we might catch when the pots had time to soak all night.
We anchored again in Ziegler for the night. The waters were incredibly calm – so calm that the bugs were awful. We tried to leave the cabin windows open all night, but it wasn’t the best decision since several mosquitoes decided to bunk with us. No one slept much between 4:30 – 7:30 AM thanks to a restless dog and buzzing bugs. Finally Clark gave up and took Tess to shore and the rest of us a caught a few more zzzzz’s.
The good news was that the skies had cleared and it was a beautiful morning.
We were pretty disappointed when we pulled our shrimp pots at 11:30 and there were only four shrimp. We dropped the pots again and motored to the head of Pigot Bay, where we found another beach to explore and had a quick lunch.
We spent the afternoon trolling for salmon, but only caught pinks so we didn’t keep any. It was still plenty fun!
When the kids got bored with the fishing, they simply headed into the cabin for some solitaire:
We had slightly better luck fishing for bottom feeders and reeled up a Dusky rockfish and kelp greenling for dinner. We of course hoped for plenty of shrimp to go with the fish, but when we pulled the pots around 6:30 there were only about 25 shrimp – maybe half a gallon.
It was still a pretty amazing dinner, with the fresh seafood, green beans, cucumbers, and a side of pasta for the kids. We are figuring out the stove and it is a nice cabin for cooking.
After dinner we played another game of pitch before heading to bed around midnight. Unfortunately, rain moved in overnight and we had the bow window open (it’s the only one with a screen) so we got a bit wet. It wasn’t too bad, and overall we all enjoyed a much better night of sleep. Sam moved to the floor at some point and liked that better.
Despite the rain, Sunday started very well. We had a lot of fun pulling up the very heavy shrimp pots – there were 85 shrimp in all along with a handful of crabs that we set free. Our luck was back!
I was getting more comfortable driving the boat, and somehow brought us right alongside the buoys for our pots so Clark could scoop them on board. Despite the electronic pot puller, pulling the line took some effort bending and pulling up the pots, but it was fun to work together. The kids liked to watch the yellow line emerge, which signals the last few feet of rope. After that the pots are visible and you never know what you will pull up from the ocean floor!
Done shrimping, we stacked the shrimp pots on the deck and started motoring toward Pigot where Clark wanted to troll for salmon again. I was driving as he prepared the fishing poles. When he decided to start the kicker motor – for trolling – everything on the entire boat suddenly went dead. Blip. Main engine power – gone. Kicker power – gone. Even the radio was completely dead. We had no navigational devices or way to communicate. We were drifting in (last we knew) around 400 feet of water, so manually dropping anchor was not an option. We were very worried we would eventually crash into the large rock wall on our starboard side, so we grabbed a cell phone and tried to call all three of our boating friends. We hoped one of them might know what went wrong. Unfortunately, no one was answering!
The shrimp pots – which had been such fun less than an hour before – were now completely in the way. We were checking batteries, crawling into the engine compartment, and basically starting to panic. The kids were oblivious as they played solitaire in the cabin below.
Clark stood on the deck and began waving a red life vest to indicate we needed help. There were many other boaters trolling in the area, and right away a boat motored up to us. It was the Merle out of Seattle (or so it said on the hull) and the Captain and young men aboard were so helpful. They pulled up parallel to us, and we both tied up our bumpers. We then roped our boats together and their Captain boarded our boat. What a relief!
He really had no idea what had gone wrong either. Josh, the Captain, and Clark crawled into the engine compartment and fiddled with the fuses and connections. Everything seemed to be in order. He assured us we’d checked all the obvious places. After 15 minutes of fumbling around we all stood on the deck scratching our heads, and on a whim Josh turned the key to the kicker engine. It started! Mysteriously, all power was back and we were able to fire up the main engine. What a relief!!
Thank you to the entire crew of the Merle! They refused to accept anything but our gratitude, which I still feel in spades. They said they had spent the previous evening helping some other boaters who were in trouble, and it had been a very late night. I believe in karma and pray those weary fishermen hit the motherlode later that afternoon… they deserved it!
Needless to say we weren’t in the mood for fishing any longer, so we headed straight back to the harbor. We didn’t want to take a chance shutting down the engine again!
There was a lot of traffic in the harbor that afternoon, but landing the boat went well. The line to the tunnel was stacked deep, but we made it out in time.
As we drove back to Anchorage I was fairly certain we needed to get out of the boating business. Maybe a nice, safe RV instead? Or a cabin – something we could use year round? Wouldn’t either be safer recreational options for our family? It had been a nearly perfect weekend, but those 30-45 minutes were all we could talk about on the drive home.
I mean seriously… we both grew up in Nebraska. How much farther from the ocean can you get?
Back home, Clark got in touch with his boating friends and they talked us off the ledge. It sounds like a “simple” loose connection to the battery was the most likely culprit. Sure, simple.
Some lessons learned on this trip:
1. Hand held radios are a must. Also, we need to keep the main radio on more often so we know which of our friends are out on the water at the same time.
2. Charge both batteries when the engine is running.
3. Extra everything – fuses, etc. – is a necessity, not a luxury.
4. Fellow boaters don’t mess around. When people are in trouble, someone will help.
And perhaps the biggest lesson was that getting scared can cloud a person’s common sense. When I shared our saga with a friend, she pointed out that a pull start on the kicker motor might be a good idea. I mentioned this to Clark at dinner the next night, and he had to stop mid-chew to avoid choking.
Because guess what? Our kicker does have a pull start! We tested it, and it works flawlessly.
Our entire panic could have been averted if we had remembered this simple fact. But when you are in the moment with a new boat and new territory it’s easy to overlook the most obvious solutions!
I do believe we will survive this first season of boating. We are looking into a Boating Skills and Seaman’s course put on by the US Coast Guard this fall, and are surrounded by many friends with countless hours of experience who are happy to mentor us. The spectacular beauty of Prince William Sound make this learning curve worth the effort!