Mayday… Mayday…

As some of you may already know, I’m addicted to fishing.  At least once per weekend, usually twice, I can be found out on Lake Michigan trolling for salmon, rainbow trout, brown trout etc.

I earn my living during the week managing a team of software and firmware developers.  Supposedly I’m not stupid.  However, after reading this story, I’m not certain on that subject…

Act I – Saturday

Fishing has been slow out of Port for me this year.  Where we would usually be pulling 4-8 fish per trip out of the water, this year we’re struggling to get 1 or 2.  By comparison Saturday was a great day for me – I went to the cleaning station with 3 very nice sized fish…  While cleaning them, I was talking with another solo fisherman that had 4 fish.  He stated that the day was good for him, but fishing had slowed down.  We chatted more … the usual chatter… how deep, how far, how many feet of water, what bait…. where.  He mentioned a reef.  I didn’t know about a reef near Port… so we talked more.


Act II – Setting the Stage

I went home and looked up the reef.  Roughly 20 miles from the boat ramp… hmmm… I should be able to do that in about an hour on calm water I thought to myself.  I added headlights to the back of the boat so that I could see the lines in the dark and went to bed VERY early.  Awakening at 11:30 pm, I dressed, kissed Plaintiff while she slept and headed out the lake.  Stopped off at the gas station and gassed up the boat so it’d be good for it’s first long haul mission….

Act III – Accidental Stupidity

Launching the boat by myself is fairly easy.  I’ve been doing it often enough that I have it down almost to a science.  Boat’s in the water, everything seems to be running fine.  Turned on the new headlights and was amazed at the depth of my own brilliance at having thought to put them on a seat pedestal where they could be “aimed”.  Left Port and headed south east.  Damn.  It’s dark out here at 1:30 in the morning…

Now, I’ve fished 8 to 10 miles out before.  That place where you can barely see land on the horizon.  In daylight.

Calm waters?  Not exactly.  My boat doesn’t handle quite as nicely in rougher waters so I was probably doing more like 12 miles an hour with bursts up to 20… I could still see the blinking red lights on a radio tower when I hit a wave and left the water.  When the boat came down, the motor died.  Shut down. Dead stop.  No go. Cease and Desist.  I’m roughly 12-15 miles from the land… it’s 2:15 in the morning, and I’m floating helplessly along with the current.

Hmmm.. What should I do?  Call for help?  Great idea.  Ooops.  Only 1 bar on the phone – can’t surf the internet for a phone number. Call Plaintiff. Wake her up at 2:30 in the morning and have her look up the number to the US Coast Guard.  Got it.  I’ve got to give credit to the kid on the phone… I don’t think I woke him up.  He put out a vessel in distress call to see if any other boats where in the immediate area.  He called me back to verify the longitude / latitude coordinates I gave him as the ones I gave him put me about 30 feet outside the harbor – and he did it without laughing at me once.  Apparently, rescuing morons whose motor quit working in the middle of the night is not a high priority on the Coast Guards list.  They will do it, but it takes some time.

While floating around on the lake, I decided to test out my mechanical skills by seeing if I could fix the boat myself.  Life vest on – Check.  Motor tilted up – Check.  Fuse in motor – Check.  Fuel – Check.  Emergency Kill Switch by the throttle??? What?  You mean to tell me the motor works fine if you turn the switch to the RUN position?  No kidding?  Call off the Coast Guard.  Thank heaven they hadn’t left the harbor yet.

Act IV – Proven Stupidity …

Having just survived floating on the lake for over an hour because the dang boat owner missed troubleshooting the kill switch, the motor is once again purring… still time to go fishing.  Turn the boat around back to the original heading and finish the journey to the “reef”.  WOw!  There it is.  We go from 300+ feet of water (FOW to all the fishermen out there) to about 180.  As I pass over the reef  I get the first hit of the day.  It’s a beautiful 12+ pound rainbow trout.  Fantastic fight.  Got him in and almost instantly forgot about the problems of the morning.  Continued to troll around the lake a few hours and happened to glance down at the fuel gauge. What the heck?  How can I be between 1/2 and 1/4 of a tank – I just filled up on the way to the lake?

Knowing that you have used up well over half your fuel on the outbound trip, and have not headed back yet is a bummer.  Looking around the horizon and seeing absolutely nothing but water is an even bigger bummer.  Realizing that you are 20 miles away from shore on a “big” lake and that you may be making the second phone call of your life/day to the US Coast Guard is an even bigger bummer.

Pull Lines.  Head for shore.  Roughly an hour later, with the gas gauge bouncing just above E, I saw the first sign of civilization… another boat trolling the lake… Harbor was another 30 minutes away….

Made it safely, and on my own power.

I think I’ll add a few gas cans to the boat and a ship to shore radio before I try that spot again….


2 comments for “Mayday… Mayday…

  1. Gail Mestas
    July 13, 2015 at 7:44 am

    OMG, after growing up on another BIG lake (Huron) and experiencing fishing with you on your boat on that Great Lake, I was living every moment with you while I read this! So glad you made it back safely! Have you gone that far out on the lake since then?

    • Michael
      July 13, 2015 at 8:43 am

      Grandma Plaintiff banned me from going that far out again until I had more equipment (ship-2-shore radio) … I now have it all and will probably be trying it again in the not too distant future… Miss you guys….

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