Yesterday, I threw the white W500 set up as a sea sled on top of my engine box of the “Line Dancer” and pounded through a close sloppy chop to a pocket of calm water over 3 miles offshore of Key Largo.
Though the wind was blowing 15-20 miles out of the Southeast, the water behind Grecian Rocks was flat calm. Low tide forces the coral bottom above the surface and creates a natural breakwater to find shelter behind.
Here is a perfect place to enjoy an afternoon with my wife and experiment with the snorkel sea sled concept.
This incarnation has the trolling motor in the bow which is much safer and easier to steer than the stern mount position. The on/off speed control extension is a length of PVC that clips on to the throttle handle.
I took the sea sled away from the calm part of the reef to avoid the crowd and the protected “no catch” zone.
Beyond the reef, in a foot and a half close chop and relatively murky water, the sea sled pulled well without shipping any water into the hulls. There were no lobsters in the holes that I checked which confirms reports from the early season.
But Santiago my W500 worked very well and still has a special place on my boat, in my truck, and in my life.
Santiago is not for sale…
Yesterday, I launched the W700 with both motors installed to go to a secluded creek far into the mangroves.
This run included a trip through creeks, over the ocean, and across extremely shallow flats.
In past years, I could catch my recreational limit of six here in my secret spot, or at least dinner.
After using multiple power options including paddle pushing across shallow bottom with grass on the surface and powering with both engines in the ocean, I arrived and started putting on my gear. Then, I realized I forgot to put my lobster gloves in the Wavewalk. Aargh!!!
I had purchased a special camera holding mask for this event. Maybe, some GoPro footage might save the day?
Following entry into the creek and spotting quite a few undersized lobsters, but no real obvious legals, I did not feel so bad about leaving those gloves behind. While filming, I realized that the GoPro camera was going out of the water slapping the surface. That’s why there are light flashes in the video.
So, I set the angle down which definitely does not give a real view of the snorkeler’s perspective but the camera stayed submerged.
In 63 years on this planet, I never grabbed a lobster in its hole without gloves. Imagine trying to pull up a rose bush without hand protection. But, there is a first time for everything…
I only wish the video footage was better.
Today, I bought a GoPro camera extension arm to fix that angle issue.
This is the story of my trip across Buzzards Bay, to the Elizabeth Islands, a chain of small islands between Martha’s Vineyard and the mainland.
Before the actual trip…
My first trip was ‘preliminary’ to the actual one, because it was cut short due to time constraints – I arrived to the boat ramp in Gooseberry island at the Horseneck Beach Reservation, found the parking lot full, and headed back on the causeway.
I parked a quarter of a mile down the road, next to a rocky beach, a.k.a. a ‘Rock Garden’. It was early in the afternoon, and by the time I launched, filled the gas tank, and tested the boat (and myself), I realized that since I’m a novice seaman, I’d have to drive slowly, namely at less than 5 mph, which would have made the trip longer than I had planned. That meant that I might have gotten back home too late, which is a no-no.
What’s left from that preliminary, or shall we call it ‘Test’ trip are the panoramic view of the parking lot and the beach, and the still images from the end of the trip, where I’m seen dragging the boat on the beach, and up the ramp, back to the parking lot.
Joao, a local resident, shot these nice photos – Thanks Joao! 🙂
The actual trip
I came back the next day to the same parking lot, before noon. I wore blue shorts and and a blue shirt that’s identical to the one I wore the previous day – It’s called ‘Movie Continuity’ 😀
Speaking of continuity, the weather was identical in both days – sunny and beautiful. That wasn’t due just to luck, since I had planned this trip a week in advance.
Launching in that rock garden was a piece of cake.
To start the motor, I dropped the anchor about 100 yards from shore, turned around in the cockpit so I faced the motor, added fuel to the gas tank (I did it standing up, using a long spout), and I started the motor in full comfort, like I would on a big boat.
I turned around, which is easy to do in the W700, raised the anchor, grabbed the joystick, pushed in the choke, put the motor in forward gear, set the RPM, and headed to the islands.
I drove at a leisurely pace, giving myself time to enjoy the ride and shoot video.
I had two cameras on board – a Sony 400 with a telescopic x63 optical zoom lens, and a Sony Xperia watertight smartphone with a 4K Ultra-HD camera, mounted on a selfie stick. I used both cameras, and it turned out that the 400 performed well, while the Xperia didn’t produce good results, mainly because I failed to operate it properly 🙁
At about 6 miles from shore, Penikese island was closer, but I decided to go a little further, and land on Cuttyhunk island, which is 7 miles from where I launched. It just looked better the trough the telescopic lens of my camera…
I approached Cuttyhunk island, scouted for a good landing spot, and beached without a problem. I didn’t even have to step in water 🙂
As I was making my first steps on that beautiful beach, enjoying the pristine nature and solitude, my cellphone rang… It was my mother in-law, who was concerned about me 😀 That conversation added a comic touch to the situation…
I refilled the gas tank, and checked how much water got into the boat. I had a towel tucked in each rear hull tip, and both towels were almost dry, which is to say that hardly any spray got in. This is due to fact that I drove slowly and didn’t give the waves a chance to splash into the cockpit.
The first half of the trip back to the mainland was a not that pleasant – The wind had picked up, and the boat was getting hit by waves from 7 o’clock, which made it harder to drive. The joystick offered me the perfect means to drive responsively and with precision, as I needed to, given that the W700 is such a small boat. Comfort wise, it was perfect.
Under these conditions, driving while facing sideways and gripping the tiller directly would have been hard, and even driving while facing forward with an articulated (U-jointed) tiller extension would have been somehow uncomfortable.
The motor didn’t sound like it appreciated the continuous abrupt alternations between acceleration and deceleration, as each passing wave projected the boat forward and then dumped it behind…
It turned out that this 6 HP Tohatsu motor isn’t just quiet and easy to operate – it’s also reliable.
The second part of the trip back was easier.
As I approached the shore and recognized the area from which I had launched, I allowed myself to drive faster, and even standing up, which felt great.
Spray getting into the boat was no longer a matter for any concern as this stage, of course.
Beaching in the rock garden was a piece of cake, but I have to admit that due to the shallowness of the water I wasn’t able to drive the boat high enough to step on dry land, this time.
Dragging the boat up the beach and back to the car wasn’t easy… After a few steps I stopped, and I used a little manual pump that I had with me to get water out of the hulls. I also took the towels out and squeezed water out of them. Altogether, I removed a couple of gallons of water from the boat, which made it easier to pull it up to the parking lot.
Other than getting my face and knees sunburned, I feel no physical impact whatsoever. No muscle tension in my legs, not even the slightest sign of back pain, and no pain in my left wrist and forearm, which could have happened had I used the articulated tiller extension in such a long drive.
The 6 HP Tohatsu outboard features an alternator, which means that it could feed the battery powering a small electric bilge bump, and thus turn spray into a non-issue. Some smaller Tohatsu outboards feature an alternator as well.
Anyways, a long manual bilge pump such as many kayakers use would do equally well, I guess.