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Smooth sailing after rough week


Every now and then it happens -- no matter what you do and how you do it -- a week starts out with great promise and, eventually, ends with some of that promise realized.

And then there are those weeks when the events between the beginning and the end can drive one tool-throwing, tackle-box-kicking crazy.

C'mon, you've had a week like that. Maybe you've had several over the years. But it is a safe bet that, as far as boats go, few have had the rod-breaking, fist-shaking, blue-streak-language crazies as often as I have.

Take last week.

The 20-foot Shamrock, a center console fishing boat with which I have had an unabiding love-hate relationship over the past four seasons, had been sold. The rest of the family, you see, was

caught up in the '90s, downsizing its flotilla and eyeing computers for the kids, a new roof for the house and maybe even something grand, like a piano, for the other wage earner in the house, who can be quick to remind that she, too, has a job, a 'real job.'

Little did it matter that over the first three seasons the Shamrock has been reworked from a clunker into a reliable boat that could run all day at 30 knots, fitted with a pair of fish finders, a decent VHF radio and a bimini.

The Shamrock was replaced, of course. One who fishes needs a boat from which to fish as much as the kids need computers, the house needs a roof or the other wage earner wants a piano.

An older, 13-foot Boston Whaler, with a newer, 40-horsepower Yamaha outboard bolted to the transom fit the bill. It is a little small for the open bay when the wind is up, but capable of running rivers and creeks, light enough to be pushed by a trolling motor and stable enough to stand up in and cast from.

And most important it was cheap, freshly painted and seemed to need little work -- some sanding of the minimal woodwork, rerouting of the steering cable and the mounting and wiring of running lights, fish finder and compass. An estimated two days of work that, of course, stretched into parts of five.

But by late in the week, on a morning when the wind was light and the bay flat, the Whaler was slipped off the trailer, the engine started and the creek fled for the channel edge at the mouth of the Severn River.

Halfway there, with a couple of dozen birds swarming over fish feeding on the surface a half mile ahead, the motor faltered and died.

No problem.

Hit the key. Starter engages, engine starts and dies again almost immediately.

Check the fuel line for pressure between tank and engine. OK.

Pull off the cowling and check for fuel leaks ahead of the pump and between the pump and the carburetors. None seen.

Hit the key and engage the electric choke. Engine runs slowly with enriched mixture. But dies when choke is disengaged. Swear loudly and to no one in particular.

Contemplate the choice between taking up the pair of oars in the bottom of the boat or a thin-bladed screwdriver. Pick up the screwdriver and almost instantaneously watch it slip over the side. Swear loudly several times, and pick up the last screwdriver aboard.

Adjust the carburetors in triplicate. Hit the key. Varoom.



Hit the key, hold the choke switch on after the engine starts and limp toward home, the outboard chugging slightly.

The next morning, yesterday, the whaler was left in the driveway on a borrowed trailer, and the sailboat was freed from its mooring to slip away into the pre-dawn.

A pair of trolling rods were rigged with Rapala Magnums, big-lipped, hard-bodied saltwater lures that can be trolled at speeds up to 12 knots and will dive to 12 to 15 feet.

With eight knots of wind and the genoa set, the Magnums bit well, ran about 10 feet deep and picked up a half dozen 14- to 16-inch rockfish over the course of two hours before course was made for home.

Off the mouth of Lake Ogleton, anglers in a pair of widely spaced fishing boats were working a school of fish breaking under the gulls -- casting, catching and probably somewhat surprised as the 31-foot sloop tacked and gybed between and around them, trolling for blues.

The Magnums picked up four blues ranging up to 5 pounds on eight or nine passes before the fish sounded and the fishermen dispersed.

There are some days that make the week, and for my money there is nothing so grand as any boat that plays as smoothly as a piano.

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