Grounded Again (You Did Not Hear this From Me)

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.

Bill Bishop checks sounder installation while the dredge operator mucks with the channel.

“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.”



Comments (7)

Speaking od High school English, I think Tom M. should get a refund. "Bill and I" is correct not "Bill and me". Try the sentence with only one person: Me eventually pried...
Obviously incorrect and a common error.

Posted by: oenghus | November 14, 2011 7:14 AM    Report this comment

This is The Admiral speaking...Okay...Let me get this straight. You had a total of six depth sounders on the boat, and you still went aground? What else aren't you telling me? We haven't had a good flogging around here for a while...

Posted by: Tim C | November 10, 2011 2:24 PM    Report this comment

Good story - I love irony! By the way, not to sound like your high school english teacher, but the 2nd to last sentence in the second paragraph should be "Bill and me", not "Bill and I". Of course, by Bill and me I mean Bill and you, since I would never find myself in such a situation - at least not while I am sitting here in my 16th floor office!

Posted by: TOM M | November 10, 2011 5:58 AM    Report this comment

In all seriousness, do you think Theresa would be interested in writing short "Tips & Tricks" piece on lead lines? I've never actually used one, but I'd like to have one on board.

Posted by: NICK C | November 9, 2011 3:52 PM    Report this comment

Calibrating . . . yes, that was it. We were calibrating. Damn, why didn't I think of that.

As far as the other four were concerned. They worked fine, some better than others, and the full report is due in December issue. While it would have been cool to have five plotters humming along as we tested, they operate on the same frequencies, so it would have muddied the waters--so to speak--to have them all pinging at the same time. (There was, as GW suggests, room for a bit of "creative license" in this post.)

We never had frequency problems with the lead line -- though there were others, as one might imagine having when you hand your wife a potentially lethal tool without due deference to her authority. "Please . . " isn't always enough.

Posted by: DARRELL N | November 9, 2011 3:27 PM    Report this comment

No offense, but is what you did even called a "grounding" when the tide is coming and no rocks are involved? With moderate creative license you could call it a test procedure to calibrate the transducer. Perhaps a sidebar on the exact test method (speed, weight placement, screen glare, back lighting, etc.) and a small, but dense table comparing the depth of the transducer in the mud relative to the value of those pesky white numbers. You should probably borrow the boat a bunch more times under the guise of reducing the Standard Deviation of the results. GW

Posted by: George W | November 9, 2011 3:06 PM    Report this comment

Great story ... now, why were the others not operating and what specific models are they?

Posted by: Unknown | November 9, 2011 2:32 PM    Report this comment

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