I survived South Pass
There I was, laying in the bottom of the boat; going through treacherous seas; with a 2-inch goose end on my forehead. Many would ask, “Claire, how did you get yourself into this mess?” Honestly, I couldn’t remember for a while, but I got my wits about me soon enough.
It was a typical day in late June. The boats were out fishing, and the halibut and King bite was hot. Everyone was coming in with limits from anywhere they put their bait down. We had just eaten lunch (thanks, Bruce) when we heard a call on the radio about a stuck anchor, so, in classic Waters Edge fashion, I grabbed the closest people to me and headed out to the rescue. I found Ben and Malinda and was lucky enough to find the Yellow boat full of gas (an essential part of boat rescues). We grabbed the other essential parts of a boat rescue including, but not always limited to; cookies, granola bars, crasins, a jump pack, 9/16 socket, an extra battery, a buoy and anchor pulling ring, and a speaker. Once we had assembled our supplies, we headed out to find the stuck anchor.
The hardest part of helping someone on the water is locating them. Word of advice, telling me you are “by the island with the trees and rocks” is not helpful. Please tell me the fishing spot you are at… it makes my job much easier, and us much less late to dinner. I started radioing once I got into range to reach the inside waters.
“Hey! This is Claire! I was hoping to find whoever has a stuck anchor?”
Then miraculously the people in need of help, could hear my radio, and answered me!
“This is the Orange boat. We are out on the South side of Lemesurier Island and our anchor is stuck.”
“Okay Guys! Just give me like 30 minutes and I will be out there!”
Knowing is half the battle, and now that I knew where they were I could speed over there as fast as the Yellow boat would carry me. Ben, Malinda, and I went racing through South Pass, past the Red Buoy, skimmed along the mouth of Idaho inlet and found ourselves on the South side of Lemesurier. We arrived at Lemesurier with our spirits high, ready to get an anchor unstuck, and eat the rest of our cookies. We only encountered one problem… discovering the exact location of the boat. So, like any misfit boat of rescuers did, we squinted our eyes and looked hard for the Orange boat (we were optimistic because the orange boat is much less invisible). We looked along the entire coastline of greens, grays, and blues, for what felt like eternity, until finally, Ben saw a glimmer of Orange, and only Ben saw the glimmer of Orange.
Ben - “Look directly off the bow of the boat and then find the dead tree. See the dead tree?”
Me - “No, I don’t see the dead tree”
Ben - “Find the dead tree then go to the right until you see the point of rocks, if you see the rocks, you’ve gone too far, and you’ll need to come back. The Orange boat is between the dead tree on the shore and the rocks.”
I think we need some context. 1, Ben is an 18-year-old from Mantua, Utah who just graduated high school three weeks prior. 2, Ben has never been on the ocean like this before. 3, Ben will jump off the dock into the water at any given time but claims to hate swimming. 4, Ben is terrible at giving directions.
All I could do now was point the Yellow Boat towards the dead tree and the rocks and drive (and maybe consider seeing an eye doctor when I get home). Continuing to squint and drive slowly towards the spot Ben had designated, the Orange boat slowly came into view. Ben had redeemed himself on directions for the time being.
We got to the Orange boat and tried to assess the situation. The current was extremely strong, and the rope look very tight. I attached buoys to the side of the yellow boat to do a water transfer with people. Malinda and I got into the Orange boat and the mighty fisherman got into the Yellow boat to keep Ben company.
Getting an anchor loose can sometimes be a little stressful and shaky, so removing people from the boat is always for their safety and for ease of getting the anchor up.
I tightened my lifejacket and prepared to get the anchor from the bottom of the ocean. I could see the rope was at an angle, meaning I would need to get closer to where the anchor was stuck on the ground. Slowly, using the motor I would inch forward and pull the anchor line in at the same time; this anchor had a lot of line out, so this process actually took a long time.
Eventually, I came to a point where the anchor rope was straight up and down, and I could feel the boat fight something directly below it. Now was the time to push with the boat; I gave a little bit of throttle and pushed with the boat… and nothing happened. I pushed from the other side of the anchor, pushing with the current… and nothing happened. I pushed from both sides of the anchor… and nothing happened. I had pushed from every way possible with the boat and the motor and nothing was happening. For nearly 20 minutes I pushed on this anchor, I was trying everything I knew how to do to get this anchor free and these guests home to dinner… it was prime rib after all.
So, in an act of wild stupidity and youth I told Malinda to hold on. She held on while watching for the rope to go under the boat and I gave the Orange boat a burst of throttle that would probably have resulted in a perfect trolling speed for King Salmon. I held on to the throttle and Malinda held on the to the railing as the force of a 200 hp motor tried to release the anchor from the bottom of the ocean. I felt the boat bow go down slightly – something very, very normal when an anchor is about to come up – I felt like I could taste victory. But then, the bow just kept going down, and down, and down. There was no distinctive pop up with the anchor coming unattached from the ocean floor. I knew I needed to cut my losses and I put the boat in neutral and pushed the down button on the toggle switch for the anchor.
Like a rocket we shot backwards. The spring in the rope, coupled with the speed of the current sent the Orange boat, Malinda and I, hurdling backwards until the rope caught again. Holy Cow. This anchor was stuck.
Like a defeated battle sergeant, I called Ben over on the radio and had him throw me a big buoy to attach to the end of the rope, and like a little kid who was told they couldn’t have any ice cream before dinner, I tied the end of the rope to a buoy and threw it overboard. My dreams disappeared as the current drug the buoy down under the surface of the water.
“Another day, another day.” I told myself. The current was too strong to get this anchor loose from the bottom of the ocean that day.
Ben brought the Yellow boat over and we switched boats again. Poopy. I was disappointed, but it is always better to be cautious and careful, than to risk flipping a boat trying to get an anchor.
The Orange boat headed for another fishing spot and Ben, Malinda, and I traveled on home. I had driven us to Lemesurier and because I was trying to give Ben some boat driving experience, I let him drive home. We retraced our steps, skimming back along the mouth of Idaho inlet, passing the red buoy, and looking out to open ocean as the sun began to get lower in the sky. The water was flat on the inside and the buzzing of the motor was making me sleepier and sleepier. Eventually, I laid on the bottom of the Yellow Boat and closed my eyes. I tried to keep them open, as the conversation above me was very entertaining, but before long sleep overtook me….
BAM! My head hit the top of the boat
BAM! I fell back down onto the bottom of the floor
BAM! I tried to stand up and hit my head again on the metal railing
BAM! I had no idea where I was or what was going on, but I could hear screaming.
“SIT DOWN!” Malinda screamed at me, through the sounds of spray and the boat hitting the water, but there was no sitting down while I was being stomped on by a 3,000-pound boat.
Somehow, I got to my feet and was able to look at what had caused the interruption of my nap. I looked out and saw nothing but sky, then in an instant the boat turned downwards, and I saw nothing but water.
South Pass & tide change. And a brand new dockstaff. The perfect storm.
Ben, trying to be good natured and let Malinda and I doze, had decided he could take the Yellow boat (which he had never driven before) through a 12-foot incoming tide change. I congratulate his bravery and stupidity.
I’m not saying South Pass is impossible to drive through but going 25 miles an hour is not how I would approach it. Ben was unexperienced and had taken us through a roller coaster of a boat ride, slamming the boat on top of my head with every wave he went down. Giving me, my infamous, goose-egg.
Through the commotion I finally got Ben to go slowly up the wave and then ride it down at an even slower speed. Giving us a much calmer, and less head damaging, passage through South Pass. On the other side of the waves, I assessed the damage… and those who were in the boat with me, who I thought were my friends, laughed at me! C’mon guys, this is your fault it is not nice to laugh at me. The thought of leaving them stranded on a rock did cross my mind…
Once I got my laughing shipmates to stop making fun of me, we looked out into the pass and saw that the waves were only getting bigger. We decided it would be best if we waited and led boats through the pass. Leading people through the pass makes it much easier, and safer for the boats behind and honestly, if you do not feel comfortable going through rough water, please call Jeremy or I and we will come help you – and truly it is often the highlight of my day.
After my personal meeting with New Zealand made aluminum, I went through the pass 5 more times, each time Ben watched me drive and understood more and more how to not kill yourself or your friend going through rough water. Once all the boats were on the other side of the pass we headed for home.
Getting into the cove was when I first started to feel the effects of my trampling and by the time we reached the dock it was all I could do to lay in the bottom of the boat, watching seagulls flying overhead, and praying they didn’t decide to come steal the egg on my forehead. Somehow, I survived to tell this story. But for now, I think I am going to leave you while I lay down for just a second, my head hurts just thinking about it.