From The Boatshop
by Ron Magen

‘That Cannon Still Work? . . .’

[“When gas reaches a buck a gallon . . . I’m going to put my car on blocks !!!!]. That particular quote from about 15 years (?) ago still rings in my ears. And brings a smile to my face every time I pass a gas station.

Last month we {the ‘Waterfront Crew’ and assorted ‘assistants’ of the Red Dragon} launched the floats and set the moorings. The ‘usual suspects’ have continued to work, in preparation for the April 15th, ‘Opening Day’.

While we were maneuvering the “A”-Frame float, so loaded with anchors that the aft end was almost submerged, several ‘powered’ craft went by. Where we are located, the River is about 600 yards wide. The over 100-year old Federal-style club house sits on a bluff with a number of tall trees on side. There is almost a forest of trees all along this stretch of the Delaware. Interspersed with private residences and other ‘Clubs’ on ‘our ‘ side. While the opposite side doesn’t have as many tall trees, it has older ‘condos’, a few small homes, and a State ‘watershed area’ dotting the shore line. This tends to make a ‘quiet corridor’ of the River. Shielding the view of industrial ‘backyards’, it also creates a ‘micro-environment’ for the wind, and reflects waves - water and sound - back & forth.

So, here is this ‘Pressure Treated Green’ wooden platform, awash at stern and almost so forward - despite the added forward pointing ‘arms’ that allow reaching the suspended anchor’s ‘drop line’. Add to this about 6 people, a ‘rust colored’ “A”-Frame, and an oxidized Aluminum ‘utility’ boat for motive power tied alongside. NOT exactly the most maneuverable of watercraft. OR, the most visible on an overcast day. Some wit even made a remark about the helicopters constantly patrolling the sky along the River, “I wonder what they think of those guys, - ‘Now there is an inept & unlikely group of terrorists !!’ ”

Looking ‘up river’ we see a large tug coming. Not wanting to take a chance on their ‘look-outs’, we give a shout to the work crew. No problem, the tug had spotted them and throttled WAY down; his bow wake was only a ripple. He was watching it, too. As the wake barely moved the ‘frame’, he then re-applied power and pulled away. The freighter that was following was another story.

With his mass and size, he couldn’t slow down. He was only ‘in ballast’, so the massive protruding ‘bulb’ bow was only half submerged. Even that ‘half’ was bigger than a 40 foot sailboat, and the way the water flowed off it was very much like the forward end of a surface running nuclear ‘Attack’ submarine. He literally could NOT slow. Just past our mooring field he has to make a 30 degree turn to Starboard, to stay in the channel. He absolutely needs steerage way. Anyway, with his mass it would take him at least a mile to ‘back down’ - even with engines in reverse. Needless to say, all of us ‘Wharf Rats’ critiqued the freighter skippers turn. Thus occupied, we didn’t notice the 3rd boat in the ‘flotilla’.

The bulk of the freighter hid our ‘work party’ from the view of the trailing tug - and being smaller than the first, he was ‘hustling’ a bit to keep up !! All we could do was yell at our people. By then, the freighter wake had passed under them and hit the shore. The bow wake of the second tug was reaching them just as the reflected wake of the freighter was starting to hit them. We all started to get our own PFD’s and head for the larger ‘boat tender’, figuring “someone was going swimming !!”. Or that we would have a nice tight clump of moorings !! While it certainly would have made a good ‘ride’ at Disneyland, etc., everybody - and everything - survived without any problems.

The interesting point about this entire ‘adventure’ is that it occurred in almost total quiet. Only the low rumbling of heavy duty Diesel engines. A short while later, the overcast started to burn off, and some of the more ‘fair weather’ members started to show up. Joanne came down from the Club house to let everybody know that lunch was ready.

After lunch, as we were changing the winch battery, we heard this tremendous, ear-splitting engine screaming racket coming up the River. It was a 25 foot {maybe} ‘cigarette-type’ power boat. Maybe 3,000 pounds displacement, with THREE outboards of about 300 + hp . . EACH. They probably weighed as much as the boat. For the rest of the afternoon this ‘individual’ ran that boat up and down the river - about a mile each way - turning at about the up-river end of our mooring field. While he may have been in the channel, his shrieking wasn’t. Not only did we get it ‘directly’, but also the continually rebounding ‘echo’ from both shores. We couldn’t even talk to each other on the shore. For the work crew, it was almost impossible to hear the ‘positioning’ commands on the radio.

With engines that big, there was no way to get fuel & oil {these were 2-cycle engines} except at a marina ‘Fueling Dock’. With ‘automotive gas just shy of $2.00 a gallon, the Premium ‘marine’ gas must have been at least $3.00. He must have burned more fuel in that afternoon than our entire Club uses in a year. Plus, ‘pissing off’ who knows how many people.

Everyday we hear, and see, what is going on in the Middle East. The latest is that OPEC is going to REDUCE their oil output. Including our ‘friends’, the Saudis. In basic economics, this is just to keep the price UP. This is because we will pay it. I’m sure “Mr. Hot Boat” complains about his $300 afternoon {assuming only a 100 gallon tank}. But he didn’t cut back any, and will be back next Saturday {yes - we’ve seen this boat before}.

Many of our Members have done a stint with ‘Uncle’ {like me}, or are retired military. I know how they feel when the evening news shows fire-fights, talks of casualties, and hear ‘pundits’ make remarks about, “It’s only because they have oil”. I don’t know what that ‘Hot Boat’ driver thinks.

Ron Magen