Getting there

We launched with boat without fanfare or incident. I asked Bruce to park the truck and trailer at the high school parking lot, then meet me at the fuel dock. On the run over, I went the long way around Browne Island to test the engine, and that crazy boat jumped right up on step ran like it was having its own celebration to be back on the water.

At the fuel dock I filled up the boat’s main tank, which just sits in the back deck, with 14 gallons of gasoline and overfilled three additional 5-gallon jugs, for a total of 30 gallons. Bruce arrived before the fueling was complete, and we moved the boat away from the fuel dock then headed uptown to grab some last minute essentials.

We bought sandwiches, bottled water, and other basic eats at King’s Market, then headed to Ace Hardware to get a small plastic storage bin to serve as the tool box, and some LED headlights that I intended to strap on to the end of the floating net-light poles to serve as a makeshift net-light.

When we got back to the boat we took a few minutes to get everything organized. Everything about this operation had been pretty chaotic up to this point, and we had shit spread all over the dock before we repacked it in an orderly fashion. When everything was stowed away, the Lady Ruth set sail on its maiden gillnet voyage around 3 p.m.

We unwittingly loaded the boat stern-heavy, because the bow bounced through the small swells like it was running the high hurdles. Those yachtie boat wakes pounded us like a couple of rats in a storm, and there were lots of them on this beautiful Sunday afternoon around Friday Harbor, a major hub in the yachtie-yahoo world. At first I had Bruce ride up front for ballast, but since it really didn’t seem to make any difference he moved back toward the stern where the pounding wasn’t so shocking to the body. Bruce suggested I simply slow down, but I refused; if the equipment can’t take it, it shouldn’t be in the game!

It was a good thing Bruce moved back there, because as I pounded through the sea of leisure-craft wakes, Bruce noticed the strain of the heavy motor, which stuck way out behind the boat on its heavy steel brackets, was beginning to separate the transom from the rest of the boat with every thumping pound I delivered. It looked like the Lady Ruth was having trouble staying in the game, and for this I slowed down.

Upon inspection, I saw there were two very solidly through-bolted brackets tying the transom to the side of the boat, but the boat’s original construction had a very weak fastening this point, and the rusty old through bolts, and the light fiberglass layup, were disintegrating.

It was time for some emergency repairs. Bruce and I got out the cordless drill, drill bits, galvanized fastap screws, and a 5/16″ stainless bolt long enough to pass through all the material in the compromised spot. I worked with focused attention as we drifted through Upright Channel, getting tossed by yachtie boat wakes all the while.

The new bolt held some solid meat, and the fastap screws zipped right in and held all the surrounding material so snugly I knew it would hold for the duration of this trip — If I stopped challenging the equipment. For the remainder of the voyage I found a way to pass through the boat wakes without beating the boat to the bottom of the ocean; I slowed down. As we traveled out of the San Juan Islands and across Rosario Strait, there were less boats to deal with anyway, so we still made pretty good time.

We arrived in Samish Bay shortly after 5 p.m.; true survivors, ready to conquer our next challenge — Samish Bay king salmon!


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