It happened on my first set of the morning tide on Saturday, July 5. The fish were starting to come across, and I had run most of the way back up to the Johnson Hill line when my boat started to go its own course, and my steering wheel became really easy to turn. I knew right away some part of my steering system had let loose, so I slowed the engine down and took the boat out of gear.
I stayed at the helm even though I had no control of the boat. As the boat slowed, it headed toward another boat that was in a set. It probably wouldn’t have been a problem, but I didn’t want to freak the guy out by getting right next to him, so I put the boat into reverse. Immediately I heard a loud CLUNK!, so I took it right back out of gear. OOPS — I knew I shouldn’t put the boat in reverse, because my rudder wasn’t attached to the tiller, and when the propeller drew water toward it in reverse, it sucked the rudder into it as well. After that my formerly smooth-running propeller vibrated for the rest of the season.
The damage from that bonehead maneuver could be addressed later, but first I had to fix my steering and get back to fishing. I opened up the hatch to the lazarette and inspected the steering mechanism. The bronze tiller arm had broken from stress, right where it clamps onto the rudderpost.
There was no quick fix for this one because the business end of the tiller arm was now in two pieces. I knew this fishing period was over for me and I would have to run in and get this fixed in the machine shop at Nornak.
I bummed a tow in from Crosby, but I was zigzagging all over the place behind him, stressing my bow cleat, and threatening to snap the tow line, so we bagged that idea, and Crosby went on his way to catch some fish. Now on our own, we switched to using a large crescent wrench as a tiller arm, and Anthony as the human steering ram.
I think he really liked that assignment; it seemed to be a transcending experience between him and the wooden boat he likes to work on — and it worked pretty good, too! I couldn’t run very hard, but we had the tide in our favor, and we made it up to camp in pretty reasonable time.
We had to wake up Ed the machinist early from his night’s sleep to patch the broken tiller arm back together, but he was cool with that, because Ed is a good man — and he does good work, too.
He had us fixed up in a couple of hours, and we headed back out to the fishing grounds with the ebb. I lost the period, but that was it — just one period, and then I was back in action.
Next year I’ll be looking for zero breakdowns.
TO BE CONTINUED…