Misadventures on the water always have the potential to turn in to real trouble, even deadly situations, at the drop of a hat. Although we did not get ourselves in to a situation that could have resulted in damage to the vessel or bodily harm one simple decision could have quickly changed the outcome.
After running a boat in poor shape down the river toward Lake Michigan for a 4 hour trip back up to Saugatuck I decided the boat was running too badly and had too many other things wrong to make the trip safely. The oil in the port transmission and v-drive were leaking and the pressure warning light was flashing intermittently, the port engine would not spin up past 1800 rpm, and there were several other issues which concerned me.
What really forced me to stop the trip were little things, all of which may seem unimportant by themselves but added together they did not make me feel confident about the trip.
1. The VHF radio did not broadcast.
2. There was no canvas for the bridge and no way to drive from the cabin.
3. Some of the navigation lights were not working.
4. The port gas gauge was not working.
5. We had messed around for so long getting the boat to even run down the river that it would now be dark before we got across.
6. Spring storms can come out of no where on Lake Michigan with a ferocity that rivals Florida Hurricanes. Fog can also drop out of no where in a split second making visibility nearly non-existent in the day time let alone at night.
Could we have made it? Probably, but it would have been a long ride without the ability to get on plane. People knew were we were and where we were going, but if the boat had broken down we would have been bobbing around in the middle of the lake for a long time before anyone got there to tow us in. With no radio I would have had to rely on cell signal from fairly far out on the water for communication, that alone is too sketchy for me. It’s a big lake and with unreliable lights and no ability to connect to potential rescuers the chances of them finding us would have been too slim for comfort.
The owner was disappointed that we were unable to get the boat delivered but after explaining why he was alright with it. The bottom line is my safety and the safety of any passengers in my care comes first. I would rather lose a client than a life, mine or otherwise.
A wise man once told me – if you think you shouldn’t do something, even for a second, then you shouldn’t do whatever it is. Trust your instincts and put life and limb before any other factor when choosing a course of action.
Capt. Chuck Warren