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My Worst Day Of Pontooning by Roy F. Brown
It was July 5th in 2005, I think, my first year of owning a pontoon or any boat. We had only been out a few times and I was still getting acquainted with the boat and the lake. The boat was an older Playbuoy with a 25 horse power, 2 stroke Evenrude. I had purchased it from my sister and brother in law at the beginning of the season. It was old but I had replaced the deck and carpet a few years earlier and they had the furniture reupholstered the same year, so it looked good, and was structurally sound.
We decided to get something to eat at a local lakeside resort, and headed, slowly, in that direction. I had only been to this resort once and had followed my brother in law because he knew the lake. We were leaving the lake and heading up river when I heard the prop on the motor hit bottom. The boat immediately lost all power. I knew that the strike with the bottom had sheared a pin, meaning the prop was no longer spinning. I jumped into the water immediately, because I knew replacing the pin would be easier in shallow water. Unfortunately for me it was a windy day and a pontoon boat with solid sides catches a lot of wind. The motor had no electric lift so I had to lift it by hand and get it in a head lock. I'd drag the boat to where the water was shallow only to have the wind pull me into deeper water. I told my girlfriend to throw the anchors over, but they weren't much help. To make matters worse the only tools on board were a cheap kit that I had received at a company Christmas party some years back. There was a pair of channel lock pliers, that I used to remove the cotter key and the nut that holds the prop onto the lower unit of the motor.
Now that the prop was removed I could see that when the pin had sheared it wedged itself into the shaft. Where's that punch when you need it? No punch in the tool kit and the only thing resembling a punch was a continuity tester. Where's the hammer? No hammer! What kind of tool kit does not include a hammer? A tool kit given as a Christmas present at a company party. I used the channel locks as a hammer and the continuity tester as a punch and finally got the pin out. Luckily my brother in law, who was always prepared for everything, had left some spare pins with the boat. After replacing the pin and getting the prop back on, I let the wind blow us into deeper water.
I started the engine and began heading back down river into the big lake, being ever so careful not to hit bottom again. Just when I thought everything was clear, bang, it happened again. So, I got into the water to do it all over again. It was easier this time, and while doing all of this for the second time I noticed that all of the other boats going up river were on the other side. So this time I let the wind blow me further into the channel and then exited out the other side with no problems.
I was soaked so I asked my girlfriend to drive back to the resort where I kept the pontoon for the season, while I stood in the wind and sun trying to dry out. We had to go to the other end of the lake which covers almost 4,000 acres so it took a while and I was almost dried out when the unthinkable happened. Just as she was making the turn into the channel that would become Cranberry Creek we hit bottom again. She was closer to the point than I had ever gone, but I didn't say anything. Again I jumped overboard, this time the bottom was muck and I sunk in to well over the ankle. I hate that muck, but it turned out to be a good thing as the bottom was so soft the pin did not shear.
When we got to my slip it was obvious what had caused the day's problems. The power company had opened the gates on the dam and lowered the lake by at least eight inches. Now, I can't be sure that the water level was completely to blame but I'd like to think that it wasn't just my ignorance.
I do see boats going up the river where I had my problems and cannot understand how or why they do it. Needless to say, when we go to that resort now, I'm always on the other side of the river.