How Not to Launch a Boat

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The view from the boat landing at Miller Dam. Its a big, fairly shallow lake with lots of fish and emergent aquatic vegetation

I pulled my small 12 foot john boat over to Miller Dam Flowage the other day to do some fishing and to check out the wild rice beds. As I was pulling out of the driveway, I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw the gas tank for the motor still sitting in the driveway. Oops. So I pulled over, ran back, grabbed the gas tank and put it in the boat. Then I noticed that the drain plug was missing. That would be a big oops. I ambled back to the garage to find the missing plug and was unsuccessful. Well, I reasoned its good to have a spare, so I stopped at Farm and Fleet and bought a new drain plug on my way to the lake.
I got to the flowage, and began the process of getting ready to launch the boat. I did remember to install the drain plug. As I was putting the 5 hp Merc on the boat, the cord that attached to the emergency stop key, got caught up in the motor mount. Something I did not realize until much later. I did a quick check of the boat: 5 hp motor securely attached, fishing poles, PFDs, bait, net, lunch, tackle box all in the boat. Its time to launch. I removed the two tie down straps and attached a painter rope for launching. I was excited because this was the first time I was able to launch this new boat for a full day of fishing. I had taken it for a test drive once but that was it. I climbed in the Forester and began backing up to the boat launch. As the tires of the trailer began to slip into the water, the boat began to slide off the trailer. I thought, Oh NO! I hit the brakes, jammed the car in park, pulled up the emergency brake all while opening the door and jumping out of the car. I got to the trailer as the boat began to slide into the water. I hopped over the trailer and ran to the dock. At the end of the dock I reached out to grab the boat amidships, but could not reach it. I instantly knew that my only course of action was to jump in the lake and grab the boat. As I was a jumping, I wondered how deep was the coffee colored water at the end of the dock. It proved to be arm pit deep. I was impressed since the dock was only about 15 feet long and I am 6’5.” I waded the boat to shore and then tied it to the dock. I took some very soggy steps to the car and parked it and the trailer. I left a nice trail of wet steps in the parking lot as I made my way back to the boat. That “squeesh, squeesh” sound that soggy walking shoes make is annoying. I climbed in the boat, and started the motor. Or at least I tried to start the motor. But the motor had other ideas. No combination of choke and pulling the starter cord helped. I checked to make sure all the knobs and buttons were in the right spot. I pulled on the starter cord another 50 times and still the motor refused to start. After describing the motor with all the four letter words I could think of in that moment, I decided that the only thing to do was to load up the boat and make a wet soggy drive home. So I squeeshed my way back to the car and loaded up the boat. As I was taking the motor off the boat I realized the kill switch key was tangled up in the motor mount and not in its proper place. I took the motor off the boat, untangled the key and cord, put the motor back on the boat, put the key back in its proper place and pulled the starter cord. The motor fired right up. I immediately shut it down. I then tied the painter rope to the trailer, and relaunched the boat without incident. The motor fired right up so I headed out to the lake.
I even managed to catch some fish while on the lake. When I pulled the boat out of the water that evening I was almost totally dried off from my earlier plunge in the lake.

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Lesson Learned: The boat ready to launch on its next big adventure. The mismatched boat and trailer were part of the problem. The trailer was designed to haul my 17 foot square stern canoe, and then I put a bed on it so I could haul camping gear and canoes. I now have a rope tied to the boat and trailer so it won’t try to escape again.

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