That's how much our two coffees at the Shell station range up as at 3:30 a.m. this morning. The clerk laughed about the devil's number. Should we just buy something else? No, the die had been cast. I joked to Jeff that if we slammed the fish, I'd have to buy $6.66 worth of coffee every morning. We put in at Baldwin Bridge and I tied up as the place was empty, filling my live well and checking out some of the new lighting I had installed. After ten minutes, we began to motor slowly down river. Passing under the bridge, we headed towards North Cove to look for bunker.
I was running slow until the sky started to lighten more to the east and I could better see the water surface. Having had the worst luck this season with submerged objects in the river, I was in no hurry. By the time we were three quarters of a mile below the bridge, I throttled up with no response. My stern was sitting alarmingly low in the water. Had I put the two plugs in before we left? Yes, I had left them in after yesterday and seen both in before launching. I immediately turned on both bilges, the second having been installed earlier in the season as I was worried about just having one and a hand bilge. We were taking on water rapidly, and my fear was a blown connection in the live well system. Jeff started working the Whale Gusher hand bilge and I turned straight in to shore, praying we could make it up on the flats above North Cove and beach. We were holding our own against the water as we approached the flats. The tide was nearing the top of the flood and as we made the edge of the flats, I slammed a rock with my prop, shearing it off. I knew they were in the area, but it was dark and priority #1 had been to get to shallow water before swamping. I threw out the anchor and went overboard into the waist deep water. My prop was gone, and to my surprise, so was one of the rear plugs. We were at least making headway against the flooding, so I retrieved a spare plug and put it in place. The only explanation I can come up with is that I had unscrewed one of the two plugs yesterday to see if there was any water and perhaps didn't fully tighten it, allowing it to work loose and pop out as we motored down river. If we had been taking on water since the time we launched, I wouldn't have made it 100 yards off the dock.
We were dry again within a few minutes and sitting three hundred yards above North Cove. The tide was still moving in, but nearing slack. I dropped my stern mounted trolling motor and kept my fingers crossed that it could get us back up river before the tide started out. It was no small irony that this was the first time I had brought the trolling motor along in the last month or two. Slogging back up river was going to take forever, so I told Jeff to go ahead and fish. He did manage a schoolie and a few swirls on a top water plug. The Gemma Rose II avoided the skunk! It was touch and go getting past the railroad bridge and up towards Baldwin Bridge as the tide had started to flow out, but we eventually managed to get back to the dock without calling Boats US.
The lost prop was not a big deal, as it was dinged up and a replacement is already sitting in the garage. I get to fish quite a bit, so there's always next weekend. I feel terrible for Jeff, with whom I haven't been able to get out on the water all season as he's always working his ass off. I really hope we get a few more chances before the end of the season.
Obviously, I'll be checking not only that the plugs are in, but also double checking that they are tight. The second lesson is that a spare prop isn't very useful sitting in my garage. Finally, if the morning coffee rings up to $6.66, just turn around, go home and go back to sleep.
PS - Think of how much worse it could have been if there was a banana on board!