- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Whenever I think of fishing I think of great adventure—of tuna sounding deep off Nova Scotia's ragged coast and big marlin, like the one opposite, thrashing on the surface of the blue Pacific. I experience again the excitement of pulling in a 430-pound blue-fin near Barnegat, N.J. in 1936 and learning that it was the first giant tuna ever caught by a woman off the U.S. coast. I recall, too, some of the absurd things that have happened on the water—a guest jumping from the dock onto the boat and landing in a hamper of sandwiches; another guest, impeccably dressed, miscalculating the distance and stepping off our pier straight into the water. Especially I remember the moments of freedom and release I have felt on the sea, and the peace I have found there.
Rarely do I think of thunderheads, or combers in a narrow inlet. Yet I am an oldtimer on the ocean. I have experienced its delights, but I have also met its dangers. There was a storm off Peru that sent water washing over our bow and into the cockpit for 10 hours until we finally made port; there was the hopeless feeling of groping through a fog close into the coast of Maine. There have been moments when I was exhausted by the sea, and quite a few when I was frightened by it.
Experiences like these emphasize a basic truth of blue-water boating: most of the dangers of the deep sea occur because they were not anticipated. Almost every time I have been in trouble or seen others in trouble it was because a mistake had been made. Sometimes it was a mistake of the moment, but more often it was a mistake brought about by lack of planning or of basic knowledge.
In order to avoid these mistakes endless preparation goes into each expedition my husband Lou and I make, whether it is for two days of pleasure boating or two months of scientific research. First we study everything, from the fish we want to catch to the waters we will navigate. We talk to people who have been in the same areas, consult museums and read every pertinent book we can find. We get long-range forecasts. Then, before leaving shore, we check newspaper, radio and Coast Guard reports for current conditions. If high winds (30 knots and up), thunderstorms or heavy rains are indicated, we may postpone the trip.
We make a complete check of our boat and gear. Because they were in good condition the last time out is not a guarantee that they will be this time. Boards and ribs rot, connections leak or break, bolts and fittings come loose. Between periodic overhauls at a good shipyard many of these points can be checked by an owner. Very often he can make minor repairs himself—tightening loose screws on metal stripping, replacing worn dock lines, checking fuses and other electrical connections.
Naturally, our chief concern is that a boat be seaworthy. But we also want it to be comfortable, because we know that what may be discomfort on land is misery at sea, and boating should be fun, not an endurance test. Over the years my husband and I have built 16 boats (Uncle Lou Builds a Dream Boat, SI, July 30, 1956). By the time each was afloat we were thinking about the next one, not because we couldn't make up our minds but because each time we go aboard a boat we find some new way to make it more comfortable or more seaworthy. Right now my ideal boat is not even on the drawing boards, but I have some definite ideas about it.
My first interest is the design of the hull, because this, rather than size, determines seaworthiness. In the pasta rounded bilge was generally considered more dependable than a shallow V bottom in rough seas, but the V was considered to be faster and more maneuverable. To a fisherman this is a major factor. The solution is a modified hull design that combines dependability with speed.
Fortunately, the country's top boat builders are turning out just such modifications today. In the North, where inlets can be dangerous even in the finest weather, they have developed a modified rounded bottom; in the South, where the sea is kinder and the fishing—particularly for billfish on light tackle—perhaps a little faster, they prefer a modified V bottom (see diagrams). The accent in both is on broad beam and good balance. A well-designed powerboat (one that is not bow-heavy, stern-heavy, or overburdened with superstructure) should plane like the one shown above—high and light on the water.
My ideal boat would definitely have twin engines. Two motors cost more than one to buy and install, but they guarantee a boat greater safety and maneuverability. Although some yachtsmen may disagree with me on this, I would not build a big powerboat with anything but diesel engines. I grant that the initial cost and the weight of the engines are greater, but so is the safety factor. Unlike gas, diesel fuel is almost impossible to blow up. Nevertheless, certain fire precautions are only common sense; with gas engines, they are mandatory. Before fueling we stop smoking, open the hatches and run the ventilating blower for at least 10 minutes. We use drip pans under the motors to keep fuel from saturating the hull, and a filter (page 62) to prevent foreign particles and water from getting into the tank. We make sure the engines are free of excess oil and grease and scrub them regularly with a liquid detergent. We also keep a close check on the exhaust pipes, which tend to develop leaks quickly on a diesel. Most important of all, we check our fire extinguishers before every trip.
Our present boat, the Eugenie VIII, is equipped with an automatic CO2 system and an alarm, both of which go off if the engines become too hot (they shut off by themselves when temperatures drop). There should be a system like this on every big powerboat. It is not a substitute, however, for portable extinguishers. We keep half a dozen dry-charge hand extinguishers mounted in easy reach in the wheelhouse, salon, sleeping quarters, next to the controls and in the galley. We have had to use them only once, but they may well have saved a life.