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‘Stuck bad — send help!’

February 9, 2018
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The occupants waved frantically as we approached, obviously looking for help. A nice new go-fast metal flake cruiser with at least two thirds of the hull sitting high and dry on top of lots of broken rock and oyster rubble, maybe 30 paces from the channel marker - no man's land. Amazingly no one was injured due only to their slow speed at the time of impact.

Winter in Southwest Florida and especially south in the Ten Thousand Islands area means much lower than normal tides and real danger if you stray off course. Over the years I've seen a dozen or so boats stranded on the first main oyster bar and abrupt turn in the channel just a few miles south of the Matlacha Bridge.

The last one I was following. As I started to turn left to follow the markers, they waved and continued straight completely missing the horseshoe bend in the channel into - no onto, no man's land with two thrown from the boat and everyone sustaining injuries.

Be warned that your regular boat tow policy probably doesn't cover "hard groundings," as in high and dry, which translates to more out-of-pocket big bucks to get home. That's assuming you haven't opened a Titanic sized crack in the hull and she will still float. Oh yes, things can always get worse before they get better.

I must say the local Sea Tow captains I've had the pleasure of working with professionally (As in, "Stuck bad - send help!") have all gone out of their way to yank my various boats back to the comfort of seawater.

My last encounter with Sea Tow due to "professional grounding" occurred 50 yards just north of the channel leading into Burnt Store Marina. Almost night, windy and sitting low in a flats boat, I tried to enter BSM channel to the north of the island which is problematic unless you're in an aqua car as it's 2 maybe 3 inches deep at low tide. Fortunately its smooth sand and we slid to a smooth stop without damage to boat or occupants.

The flats boat suddenly became lead filled as both of us struggled mightily to turn her back toward the harbor, water just covering the tops of our feet.

Large squadrons of no-see-ums and wave after wave of killer mosquitoes descended on us from the mangrove island. Knowing full well it might take a few hours to get to our location by rescue boat and finally giving in to the fact that continued pushing on this stuck like quicksand boat, cardiac arrest may be in my immediate future; I made the call to Sea Tow.

Then we sat, swatting in the darkness with me listening to non-stop comments about my navigational skills, eyesight and my "actual qualifications to be on the water operating a moving gasoline powered machine such as this" and several repeats of "This is a perfect example of why the state of Florida should make folks pass an on the water driving test and eye exam at least once a year"

Amazingly the local Sea Tow captain's boat was parked at Burnt Store Marina. He got the call, drove a few miles to the marina, got in the boat and motored out to the professional captain (with the really bad navigator) that was stuck just outside the marina where there is no channel.

"Didn't you guys know there's no channel here?"

"No," I lied.

"Don't I know you, you look familiar?"

"Nope, first boat."

"Yeah, ya got to follow those markers!"

"I see that now" was all I could stammer.

Wading out to grab his tow rope we hooked it to the skiff. As he slowly moved forward, we turned the pointy end to the harbor. He gunned the twin outboards and the hull slid easily off the sand and to freedom.

Saved again! Get insurance, know your tide, and if you don't know - go slow!

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or captgeoget3



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