National Fisherman

At Sea Diary

Matt MarinkovichMatt Marinkovich’s weekly At Sea Diary entry is a popular feature of the National Fisherman Web site, and now you can post your own reflections on Matt’s experiences fishing in the Pacific Northwest and North Pacific.

December 25, 2005 — The Satisfaction slipped into a time capsule after the 2005 Puget Sound fall chum salmon season ended. I came back and checked it a few times, but for the next six weeks everything pretty much stayed as it was at the end of the season: My rag net was piled and stretched out in the net yard, my new net from Bruno was still on the drum, the cabin looked like I had just finished an opener, and my bilge pump in the engine compartment was still on the fritz. The pump worked fine, but the brand new Rule Super-Switch didn't always turn off, so it would run the battery dry then would pump no more (just a minor problem).

I tarped off the hatch so the heavy winter rains wouldn't leak through the non-watertight hatch covers and flow from the hatch into the engine compartment. This worked very well, as each time I popped in to check the boat, there was just a tiny bit of water that accumulated in the bilge from the rain. But in mid-December when I pulled off Bruno's net and brought it home, I needed a tarp for the bed of my truck, so I took the one that was covering the hatch cover, leaving my boat susceptible to the winter rains. I called and checked a couple of times, concerned with my boat and its faulty bilge pump, and each time everything checked out just fine. I kept canceling my planned trips to Seattle, so I never had a chance to re-tarp the hatch to keep the rains out.

Over the Christmas holiday it rained and rained and rained. Because of all the distractions around our house, I never had a chance to call and check on the boat. Finally, at the end of the evening on Christmas Day, I made the call.

I talked to the security guard on shift at the terminal, and asked him what the boot-stripe looked like at the waterline in the bow of the boat. Judging by his detailed description, I knew there was a lot of water in the engine compartment of my boat, which brought the bow down. I knew there was so much in there, in fact, that the boat had to be pumped out now, or it would be up to the engine next time it rained, which could be that very night.

I asked the security guard if he could step aboard and switch over to a fresh battery, which would pump the boat out. He said he was not allowed to go onto the boats under any circumstances, unless it was sunken. That didn't do me much good, so I called around to a few people who were near my boat, but nobody was home. It was quite a lot to ask of somebody on Christmas Day evening, and I was really hesitant to even call, but I was trapped on the island and it was all I could do without heading down there myself. But since I found nobody to assist me, I packed up a few things and shot off the island on the last ferry that night.

We were planning to go off island the day after next anyway, so I was only leaving a day earlier than planned. I figured I could take advantage of this opportunity to run the boat up to LaConner and haul it out of the water, where I knew it couldn't sink. Then Maureen and the kids could pick me up in LaConner and we would be right back with our holiday plans.

I got off the ferry and bee-lined down to the terminal, arriving around 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 25. I examined the waterline as I walked toward the boat, and the bow was WAY down. There was a lot of water in there, and I was kind of afraid to look. But I had to, and when I lifted the floorboard I saw the water was just a few inches below my hydraulic pump. Then I stuck my head right down there and looked under the engine; the oil pan was partially submerged in water, but the starter was still clear of the water level with one inch to spare.

That was a really close call. One more good shower and I would have been changing the starter. I reached up and flipped the battery switch, and the pump began to pump out the water. It pumped for close to an hour before all the water was out. That was all the security guard had to do, was flip that battery switch. But oh, well; it's just as well I came, so I could put my boat away properly and not have to worry about it sinking at the dock.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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