My father and I travelled from
Sapelo River to Darien, GA in the "Jubal Edisto". Using
the 8hp Johnson, it took us 4 hours and 2 1/2 gals of gas. By
highway the distance is around 15 miles, probably a little further
by waterway, especially since we got a little muddled in the maze
of creeks en route.
We easily slipped over bars and
shallows, we experienced a 15 minute squall, we were forced to
cross Doboy Sound and experience a moderate chop. She pounded
some, but nothing like the aluminum john boat. The bottom did
not flex--such that I could detect it visually anyway. The wind
in the sound made for a lot of tiller adjustment to keep a straight
course, though in such wide water, a straight course was less
than critical anyway. And the trim was better than I thought too,
even with two heavies in the cockpit and minimal weight (a single
cooler) up front.
Papa - click
pictures to enlarge
It was a wonderful lazy trip, with
little purpose but to navigate, sightsee, and enjoy the boat.
And we did all of that. The real moment was when Papa said to
me while standing in the slot, "I don't mean to be profane
or anything" (he NEVER is) "but this is a DAMN FINE
After months of looking for those
elusive used outboard motors, I found a fiberglass piece of junk
on an excellent small trailer (no salt water, no rust) and a 1977
25HP Evinrude outboard with a "parts motor" of the same
or similar year also 25HP but a Johnson "sea horse"
which supposedly has only a cracked foot. The Evinrude ran in
a barrel and cranked on the first pull. So I dickered a little
and bought the outfit for $425. I got it home, put the motor in
a barrel and cranked it again, seemed to run fine, tried it in
gear for a little bit--threw a lot of water out, but still okay.
I got excited. Maybe I had what I wanted. The motor seemed a little
large and heavy for an AF4,
but I didn't have to run it full throttle or anything . . .
me on the Darien trip
Saturday I cranked it a few more
times, visions of having a dedicated AF4 motor, hell maybe even
remote steering. The whole day, I had other tasks, but I was itching
bad to get the new motor on the boat and into the water. By 7
pm I began calling everyone I knew to see if they wanted to be
brave crew. I recruited two. We launched at the marina, using
the lift. I had the 25 on center and the 3hp kicker off to the
side. The new motor cranked right up, no worries. We began to
move upriver against the tide and with the wind. I opened the
throttle up a little, but nothing much happened. I opened it up
to full throttle, and still was traveling at about the same speed
as I had been getting out of the 8hp. Something's not right I
said aloud and at that same moment the motor cut out. As I leaned
back towards it, I could smell hot engine and see a little smoke
coming out of a hole in the cowling. Well, that's it for that
one, I said now realizing that the motor is now likely somewhere
between needing expensive repair or perhaps is complete toast.
We are now about 1/4 mile from
the marina. So I fire up my trusty 3hp Sears reliable since my
childhood. It cranks but refuses to run properly. I have to leave
it partially choked to get it to run at all, and even then it
cuts out every 60 seconds or so. Plus the rather strong wind has
us and I can't get the motor behind the boat, and can't get the
boat pointed into it, and we get blown into the marsh grass, and
since it's high tide, we get blown waaay up into the marsh grass.
I get out and push until I run out of terra firma, my crew throws
the anchor as far as they can and pulling, I keep cranking the
3HP, but ultimately, if anything, we lose ground. So after staring
at each other for a while, I break out the cell phone and begin
calling for help. Finally a kindly older gentleman from the marina,
comes out and tows us back in. I was as happy to meet him as I
have ever been to meet anyone. The crew, who had begun to look
mutinous, are once again all smiles and relief as they climb onto
the dock. A small sailboat carrying three and sans motor eases
Jubal Edisto at Rend Lake
Lessons learned -
Could have used a deeper skeg.
Should have gone upwind or just waited for
a less windy day.
Two motors is no guarantee.
A cell phone is an incredible bit of technology.
1/4 mile is still too far away.
Old Southern Gentlemen are even more miraculous
than cell phones.
Well, after several day trips of
this sort, I began itching to try out the cabin. I wanted to do
a solo camping thing for several nights, but as usual circumstances
tightened up on me at the last minute, and I was forced to accept
less. The Motor which had I had allowed to overheat, was after
much headscratching, deemed unfixable by the mechanic. We replaced
the impeller, carbuerator, and fuel pump and it still ran rough
and wouldn't idle. So I was back to the trusty Johnson 8hp.
I discovered that I had to work
on Sunday early, so I would only have one night on the water.
Preparations were feverish, and my wife who excells in making
lists and packing, really helped out a lot. We do a lot state
park camping, which was our only frame of reference as we got
things together. Consequently I packed way to much gear, for a
single night on a boat. But this wasn't a bad thing as I planned
to take longer trips later, and I wanted to try everything out.
I launched by myself at low tide on a ramp covered with 6 inches
of black marsh mud. I couldn't submerge the trailer, and the boat
didn't want to slide off the bunks without a lot of grunting and
But I managed.
The motor cranked like a dream,
as usual, and I was off. I really didn't have an "anchorage"
picked out. As I cruised along, I didn't see many likely spots.
Having never slept on a boat, I was still a little nervous about
anchoring and going to sleep. I didn't want to be in the main
channel of a river. I was concerned about drifting and other traffic.
My anchor light was on of those flashlights on a stick, and I
didn't want to cause trouble or run into law enforcement.
So after some looking around, I
ran up McCoy creek until I was past the point where boats ever
travel. I happen to know this because my property fronts McCoy
Creek, and yes I anchored within view of it. As soon as I stopped
to drop the anchor, I was mobbed by sand gnats (a Southeast Coast
Phenomenom). They were in such quantity, that breathing them was
more of a concern than their biting. Ah, the cabin! I rolled out
the tarp/velcro slot cover and climbed inside. What a relief.
inside the cabin
But now, here I was, hiding out
in the cabin at 6pm. Now what? I called my wife on the cellphone.
"I made it, I found a great spot. I'm in the front yard."
Actually our house is a couple of acres of woods away from the
creekfront, but I could see the swing and the picnic table we
use for cookouts. She laughed at me but I could tell she was relieved
(she worries). I read a book for a while, fitted some mosquito
netting over the hatch opening and let in some air. I opened the
access plate I use for a vent forward.
Finally it began to get dark (gnats
dissappear at night), and I crawled out into the cockpit and set
up the campstove on two milk crates. I cooked a can of chicken
and dumplings I bought at the dollar general. It was way too much
food. The tide was getting really low. McCoy creek nearly empties
entirely at low tide, and soon the boat was resting on mud. I
put the stove away, rinsed out the pot with creekwater and sand,
and crawled back to try out the sleeping. I used a dollar general
$1 beach float for an air mattress, spread out the sleeping bag,
hung the oil lantern, and got comfortable. Then I remembered the
anchor light. I crawled back out put new batteries in it, and
turned it on. The package bragged that it burned 24 hours on 2
D-Cells and could be seen for 2 miles--coast guard approved.
It was bright. I crawled back in
and dozed for a while. 3 hours later, I awakened. The tide was
coming in, and my light was nearly out--so much for advertising.
I hung the oil lantern from the bimini, to replace it. I unfolded
the cloth chair and got comfortable. It was a moonlit night, and
now there was a nice cool breeze blowing. I stretched out my bugbitten
legs and just enjoyed the view. Soon the tide was so high, I could
see across the marsh to the sound, someone had a bright light
on their dock several miles away. The sky was full of stars and
I felt full of wonder and peace. I fished a little just for something
to do, but not even the hint of a bite.
After a few hours I retired again
to my berth. While I slept comfortably, I kept waking up and wanting
to see outside. In the dark, the view from the small cabin windows
was confusing. I would inevitably see something odd, but not know
what the heck it was. Then would have to crawl outside to have
a look--a mudbank, the anchor rope, a reflection, etc.. The tide
At first light I awoke and puttered
around, repacking my bedroll. I christened the toilet, and hauled
the stove into the cockpit again. I was ready for a breakfast
of coffee, grits and sardines. Soon I was perking and cooking
away. A few egrets searched the incoming tide for their own sardines
some 40 yards up the creek. That was when I realized I had forgotten
a critical item--a cup for the coffee. I finally used the thin
plastic cup that covers my cantene lid. It was about the size
of a dixie cup and was obviously never meant to hold anything
hot. After filling it 9 times, passing it like a fragile hot-potato
from hand to hand, I finally had my morning coffee--not the leisurely
sipping and rumination I had imagined.
Again I washed the breakfast dishes
in the creek with a bit of sand. As I repacked everything and
dismantled the stove, The tide had risen sufficiently to leave.
I hauled anchor and eased up the creek at idle. I puttered around
the river for a while, waiting for the ramp to submerge enough
to take out, fishing a little more. Takeout was not difficult,
and soon I was home again. Then there was unpacking, flushing
the motor, rinsing the trailer, emptying the porta-san, a bit
of work for such a short trip. Next time I do an overnight trip,
I'm taking about half as much stuff.
I can hardly wait.