Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:23AM - Comments: (8)
There was no small bit of irony that when marine electronics installer and blogger Bill Bishop and I set out for a day of testing fishfinders our first stop was smack into the mud flat about 500 yards from the Admiral’s house. The Admiral, of course, is Practical Sailor Publisher Tim Cole, who had, with feigned indifference, offered his family’s beloved Grady White for testing 7-inch plotter-sounders.
“The channel can be pretty tight at low tide,” he said before leaving me the keys. Or something like that. I was half listening at the time. Ha! Like we were going to run aground with five depth-sounders pinging away and Bill and I, with our thousands of miles under the keel, on board. (We do not mention the many forgettable groundings.)
But sure enough, there we were, stuck in the mud within spitting distance of the dredge operator doing routine maintenance on the Admiral’s canal.
“You think he’ll dig us out?” I mused, as I tilted the outboard and tried to back off. Bill didn’t seem to hear me.
“Ha, ha,” he laughed. “We won’t write about this.”
“Ha, ha,” I laughed back. “Of course not.”
Bill is just getting to know me.
To mount a feeble defense, only one of the sounders was operating at the time—the nifty little Humminbird 798ci SI, which has the ability to shoot some entrancing pictures of what’s happening on either side of the boat, over 200 feet away. A lot of good that did us. We were so bedazzled by the Humminbird's ability to function in the thick soup stirred up by the dredge, that those bright white digits in the upper left-hand corner had escaped our notice. Now they glared at us with spite and arrogance, indicating quite clearly that we had less than a foot of water off the stern.
I’ve never gotten along with depth sounders. The one we had on Tosca, the boat my wife Theresa and I cruised for many years, was one of those ancient Datamarine LCD units. The display was infallible; it was the transducer that did the devil’s work. We replaced the transducer four times in 10 years. Each time, the company was happy to send us a new transducer at no cost, no questions asked. The significance of this response—namely that mailing out a new transducer was cheaper than admitting the thing made an excellent hood ornament—was lost on us.
The depth-sounder worked like a charm so long as we could see the bottom. The moment the bottom dropped out of sight or the water clouded up, we might as well have been in Poe’s maelstrom. The display went blank, blood rushed to our head, and our ears began ringing. In place of digits, we saw only dashes, smug little dashes, with evil, flat grins, taunting us: “Maybe you should have read that Practical Sailor report . . . ”
On a good note, Theresa got pretty darn good at slinging a lead-line.
Bill and I eventually pried the Admiral’s boat out of the mud and agreed on a code of silence.
“We probably shouldn’t tell him about that,” Bill said when we returned to the dock.
“Of course not,” I said. “We wouldn’t want to write about it, either.”