While being towed, boater renders aid to tow boat

Christopher Smith

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After many years of begging, I finally convinced my ultra-paranoid sister, Erin, to come out on the boat. I promised her a relaxing, fun-filled day on the water.

The day started out as usual. We loaded the boat full of food and supplies. Then we had an uneventful ride to beautiful Sunset Cove, where we dropped anchor for the day.

We had a great time, complete with swimming, music and lunch—all the things that make boating fun. When the sun started to set, we headed home.

I took the long way, from Sunset Cove through the Lindenhurst Cut, so I could pump out at Tanner Park in Copiague, New York.

As we left Tanner Park, strong southwest winds began pushing us toward the north shore of the bay. I throttled the starboard engine to make up for the wind. Noticing that the starboard engine got severely overheated, I shut it down and dropped anchor. When I opened the hatch, I saw the hose had popped off the raw water pump, which was pumping water into the bilge. The motor was too hot to fix on the spot, so I called Sea Tow to get us back to the dock.

As we waited, a storm blew in and came at us fast. We heard the thunder and saw the lighting as the chop on the bay worsened. While I scrambled to put up the Bimini, Erin started panicking, and I had a hard time convincing her that everything was OK. It’s just a quick storm passing through, I repeated, telling her not to worry and to go downstairs inside the boat. Mind you, I have been a boater for over 20 years, and the chop in the bay was so bad I could not go inside.

First the boat broke down, then the storm hit us, and now the tow boat had broken down, too.

Sea Tow arrived 20 minutes later, in the middle of the storm. As I attached the tow line, the captain told me it would be safer to be towed back in the rain. Once the boat started moving, it stopped rocking around, making it much easier for us to be on the boat. After about 20 minutes of rain and thunder, the skies cleared, and the winds stopped. The weather became better than it had been before the storm, and it turned out to be a beautiful end to the day.

As we approached the mouth of our canal, the Sea Tow operator stopped and wanted to tie his boat broadside against mine. He threw one of the rear lines to me, unaware that he was standing on the end. The line never made it. As he began to back up, I yelled that there was a line in the water, but he backed up right over it. The big 250-horsepower outboard grabbed the line, which wrapped around the prop, taking all slack out of the line. Because the line was tied to the other end of the boat, it stalled the motor with a sharp, loud snap.

Upon seeing this, the tow boat captain became quite upset with himself. We removed the line from the prop and tried to start the motor. Although it ran fine, we couldn’t figure out what had made that loud snap. It turned out to be the steering arm connection.

While the Sea Tow captain called for another boat to tow us both back, my sister was freaking out and wanted to get off the boat: First the boat broke down, then the storm hit us, and now the tow boat had broken down, too.

To save time, I asked the captain if I could look at the steering arm. I always carry a toolbox full of extra parts and tools, so I went to the other boat and got to work. When the motor jerked, it snapped the bolt that holds the steering arm to the motor. I removed the broken stud and replaced it with a slightly smaller nut and bolt. This temporary fix would get us both back home.

Since I had fixed the tow boat, the captain called off the second boat and towed us the rest of the way home. At a meeting a few months later, I showed a photo of me fixing the tow boat to a Sea Tow representative. He told me they used the boat for the rest of the season and throughout the winter. They only replaced the part just weeks before the new boating season began.

Thanks to the skills I acquired from my years of boating and the knowledge I gained from United States Power Squadrons, Erin is no longer afraid to come out on the boat with me.

Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith joined Jones Beach Power Squadron in 2009 and quickly moved up the ranks to become the youngest commander with two terms of service. Throughout the year, he helps run several events for the squadron and currently serves as the District 3 administrative officer.

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