Man overboard training has begun! As I wrote last month, a little scare while out in bad weather made us realize that beside myself, someone else needs to have some basic knowledge of operating our boat. And so, on a beautiful quiet, wind free day we left the marina heading south on Peconic Bay at roughly eight knots. My wife Kathy was at the helm while I went below for a second. I emerged from the cabin carrying a second orange life ring that I use when we are swimming. I calmly walked to the stern and tossed it overboard into the glass smooth bay.
Walking back toward the helm I took a seat and told my wife and son I had just fallen overboard and pointed to the life ring getting further away. “ What do I do” was the first response, followed by hands moving toward the shift levers. Seeing that happening I placed my hands over the shift levers and said “ not the first move”. Before shifting, slow down the engines.
Shifting while the engines are running higher than idle speed can cause damage. I had a friend leaving Moriches Inlet years ago that hit bottom. First thing he did was to shift into neutral while the engine was revving at cruise speed. Realizing he had made a mistake he quickly shifted back into gear and blew the transmission. Lesson learned.
Back onboard my boat, I talked my first mate through the correct way to retrieve a man overboard. After slowing down we turned back toward our hapless life ring, now called “daddy”. We approached slowly, while my son was pointing to the target. He had gotten a boat hook ready to retrieve the ring, although we have a life ring mounted in the cockpit ready to toss to a person in the water. That life ring has fifty feet of yellow poly line attached that floats and would be easier to see if you are in the water.
As we got closer to the target Kathy had the boat going dead slow, using only one engine at a time. When we were within five feet the engines were in neutral and my son caught the ring with the boat hook, “daddy” retrieved!
We have done this countless times now, and will continue to do so until it becomes second nature. Included in all this is time at the helm, with no drills. Just getting time in so operating the boat is not stressful. Even so, unplanned things happen and you must know how to handle them while staying calm.
With all the mechanical work I have done on the boat and engines, parts still fail.
Having it happen while someone else is at the helm could be good, or bad! During one of our training sessions we had wrapped up the drills and were going to head east toward Greenport.
Getting the boat the boat up to speed Kathy was at the helm. All of a sudden there was a weird sound, muffled in the engine room and the starboard engine slowed from twenty two hundred to fourteen hundred RPM instantly. My first thought was that we had hit a fish trap marker and had a line fouled in the prop. I took the helm and looking back I saw no sign of that. I have experience in these matters! I turned west and headed to Robin’s Island to get out of the west wind in calmer waters.
All kinds of ideas were going through my mind as to what it could be and once we reached a safe spot to drift I opened the engine hatch. I could see the cause immediately, a silicone hose supplying air from the turbo charger to the after cooler had popped off. I found the hose clamp that secured it at the aft bulkhead in the engine room about four feet away. It must have come off with some force! I put the hose back on and tightened the clamp, the engine was back working properly.
Two weeks later and we are back out, this time just relaxing. I am at the helm increasing speed to get up on plane. I noticed that the starboard throttle lever is advanced much further than the port lever to get the same RPM. I told Kathy I was going to go to max throttle, and did so. But the starboard throttle only moved a fraction of an inch barely increasing RPM while the port lever moved a few more inches and the engine sped up accordingly. Something was not right, to say the least. My first thought was “why me” as I turned toward home.
On the way back to the marina many thoughts were going through my mind. Was the injection pump bad? I had just adjusted a return fuel overflow valve, was that it? So many ideas. Coming into the slip my starboard throttle lever jammed, which was a clue. I was thinking maybe the controller itself was bad, or the cable was not secured correctly to the shift lever anymore. Once we tied up I opened the hatch to look at the engine side of the linkage first. As soon as I touched the throttle lever mounted on the injection pump it was clear that I had found the problem.
The lever itself, mounted on the pump was loose. It had actually stripped the splines on the shaft. I am not sure how this could have happened, but I was able to fix it by simply moving the lever further out on the splined shaft, where the splines were not stripped.
The point to all of this is to be prepared. Things happen! Stay calm and think the problem through always starting with the simplest thing that could be the cause. Have a basic tool kit with you. Know how to use your USCG approved throwable device. Practice simple things with your crew including anchoring, securing to the dock, basic seamanship. And how about using the VHF radio?
Let’s make it as safe as we can out there for yourself and those around you. See you out there.