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April 4th, 2019 Leave A Comment

A Dead Battery, One Oar and Anchor Throwing

Once I borrowed my brother-in-law’s 12 foot rowboat to take my friend Bob bass fishing on a small river on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Carl’s boat had a small outboard motor with an electric starter. Carl and I loved to fish but at times the equipment was less than optimal. When I arrived to pick up the boat he told me the battery had fully charged overnight and we would be good to go.

Arriving at the river the next day Bob and I put our gear in the boat, backed the trailer down the ramp and slid it into the water. After the car was parked and locked we got on board. As promised the battery worked perfectly to start the motor and we were off hoping to catch monster largemouth bass. It worked well all morning.

Heading back up river in the midafternoon we stopped to fish at the edge of the channel in front of a large relatively shallow bay. The wind picked up quite a bit while we were talking and fishing and blew us further and further away from the main channel, probably a hundred yards or so. We decided to call it a day after not catching anything for some time. I tried to start the motor and nothing happened. Checked all the connections, tried again. Nothing. So much for a fully charged battery.

The rowboat did have two oarlocks but only one oar in the boat. Rowing with one oar only makes you go in circles and an oar doesn’t work very well as a paddle especially in a stiff wind blowing in the opposite direction you want to go. We had to get to the main channel if we were to have any hope of getting help from a passing boat.

Fortunately the boat had a plastic covered anchor shaped like an upside down mushroom that weighed about 8 pounds. About 25 to 30 feet of nylon rope was attached to it. Once the rope was securely fastened to both the anchor and boat Bob and I took turns “anchor throwing”. Standing in the bow, trying not to capsize the boat we swung the anchor back and forth once, twice and then heaved it as far as we could towards the channel. We would pull the boat to the anchor, haul it up as fast as possible and start over. Every time we pulled the anchor back into the boat we’d lose at least half the distance gained due to the stiff breeze. Two steps forward, one step back, literally. It was hard work but we persevered because we had no other choice. Few boaters passed by during this time and those that did apparently didn’t even notice us.

Exhausted we finally got reasonably close to the channel and dropped the anchor to hold our position. At last a big bass fishing boat came speeding up from the direction of the boat ramp. Bob and I stood up in the boat waving our arms and yelling “HELP!” at the top of our lungs. He slowed to a stop nearby and asked what the problem was. I explained and asked him if we could borrow his battery to start the boat. “What? Borrow my battery?! Are you crazy?!” he shouted. We didn’t know what else to do. And we never thought to ask if he would tow us back to the ramp. Reluctantly he agreed to help, handing his battery over to me, promising much bodily harm should I drop it in the river. Once connected the motor started right up. Successfully transferring the battery back and thanking him profusely we promptly headed back to the boat ramp.

Throughout the ordeal we were never in any serious danger except that daylight was eventually going to fade and make our present trouble even more difficult.  Our worst fear – having to tie up the boat to the shore, hike to the car, go buy a battery – they typically weigh about 40 pounds – and carry it back to the boat did not come to pass.

We had some good laughs about anchor throwing as we headed back home, thankful that another fisherman decided to be a Good Samaritan and help us out. And we resolved that if we ever borrowed a rowboat again we would never even think about leaving the dock without a serious testing and checkup of all equipment on board particularly safety gear and have a backup plan for possible emergencies.

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