My husband has always said if a boat sinks it will not be one thing that causes it. It will be a sequence of events. I have, knock on wood, sunk once and his saying was true.
I was fishing what I called "the Cadillac of all trout boats" it was a low to the water old wooden boat, I am guessing it was built in the '50s. It leaked a lot. I kept three bilge pumps in it, one near the bow, one in the middle, and one in the stern.
I was on the west shore headed north almost to Morris Flat. I was a couple of thousand yards from the shoreline when the wind came out of the north and started blowing 25 knots. I took a couple of waves over the bow and the pumps came on and were pumping the water out. I slowly kept my bow into the wind when another wave came over and this time the pumps had gotten clogged. I tried to clean them but when I went to the bow my boat turned and I took another wave, this time over the side. By this time I knew I was in trouble, not wanting to sink that far from shore, I turned sideways to the wind and gave the motor all the gas I could safely give it.
I ran the boat as far as I could, right into the overgrown grass that lined the shoreline. As soon as I hit bottom with the motor a wave hit and the boat went under. But by running the motor a ground saved it from going under. Shit went to floating out of my boat but I could not collect it because I had to get the boat back floating. I jumped overboard and held the side up that had water coming in and bailed until it had enough water out so I could get the pumps unclogged. When I had all of the water out and it was floating, I pulled it down the shoreline collecting my cooler and safety gear. I was wet and my ego was crushed but I went on fishing. When I got back to the dock and told my husband and the owner of the boat what had happened, they took the boat from me, saying it was not safe, I loved that boat. I have never had another boat that would drift as nice as that one did until years later I got the one I called Sur Leaks Alot. My next boat was fiberglass and tippy, I did not care for it, it was no Cadilac.
We did not sink this time and I still shake when I think about it. When you come in Salerno Inlet you have to go between two piles of rock. We were between the rocks and a big sailfish boat tried to pass us, pushing us closer to the rocks just as a rogue wave hit the very spot our boat was at. I was sitting in the stern with our son, the wave lifted the stern where I was looking straight down at my husband in the bow, the boat was literally standing on its nose and the engine died. I looked at my son and said "we just lost this boat" there was not a doubt in my mind, we were going down. but instead of going down, it was like the hand of God slid the boat sideways right into the calm waters. I was astonished that we were still floating and asked my husband how did that happen. He said he was trying to decide which way he wanted it to flip, he thought it was going down, too. He said it was going to flip end over end or flip sideways. He chooses to turn the wheel to flip sideways and instead of flipping it slid sideways. I know my husband has expert skills with a boat, but I do think God had a hand in it, too. He got the engine to run again but it would go and stop, go and stop. He figured out the fuel pump went out, it was an inboard with a 350 chevy engine. He spliced a squeeze bulb, like goes on an outboard motor, into the fuel line and my son pumped the bulb the entire hours drive back to the ramp. He would not let me take over for him and my heart hurt because I could see the tears of pain running down his face.
Another time that I thought we might go down was when we were shark fishing. We owned a 30-foot wooden boat and were ten miles out in the ocean and had three-miles of shark line in the water and the wind started blowing out of the west 35 to 40 knots. I was driving and my husband was picking up the line and throwing the sharks on deck. It was blowing so hard that I kept going across the line and my husband was afraid, which he should have been, I was going to wrap the line in the prop. He had me pick the line up and he drove. Our boat had a flying bridge built over the cabin, we could drive from up top or from the cabin. But this made it a little top-heavy since it was all wood. I could not get the sharks spread evenly across the deck and had too many on one side, the boat would lean one way and hesitate before going back straight, with the weather conditions we could not stop and I was doing my best to get the sharks to the other side but with the waves, they would come back. In normal conditions we would gut and ice the sharks as we picked up but this day it was get the gear back and try to make it in the inlet. Finally, we did get it all back and my husband could come back and take care of the sharks and I kept the bow into the wind heading back to the inlet, all the while taking waves over the bow. we came under the bridge but the wind was still blowing so hard that in the inlet and until we were almost to the dock waves were coming over the bow.
The last time I came close to sinking was when I was on the east shore of the river and a thunderstorm caught me. I tried to run towards the dock, which was to the west, but it was raining so hard I could not tell which direction I was headed. Then I ran out of gas when the engine died the boat spun around so the stern was into the wind and waves were coming over the boat, it was too much water for the pump to keep up with so I started bailing and another wave came in. I finally figured out to put my anchor over so the bow would be facing the wind and I could get enough of the water out so I could feel comfortable enough to pour gas up. I had to cover the hole that I put the gas in to be sure not to get rainwater in it. With enough of the gas poured up and the anchor up I started the motor but still I did not know which direction to go. I idled around until I could see a tree line and not knowing where I was at, I put my boat under the mangrove trees and waited out the storm. When it cleared I was five miles north of where I started and still on the east shore.
I was not going to sink this time but the thunderstorms I have been in scares me to even think about. My motor was running hot. What it would do was run great until it got hot then it would not let me go fast again until it cooled down, all I could do is idle. I saw a thunderstorm building and knew that I did not have time to run to the fish house so I was trying to get to an island that had a little dock I could get under. I was less than a mile from it and the motor overheated. Lightening was hitting so close to me that I could feel the combustion from it. I got as low as I could get to the floor of my boat and idled towards the island if I tried to go too fast the motor would just shake. The lightning kept striking way to close, three times I felt it, it is a strange feeling I am guessing it is what you would feel if a bomb went off close to you.
Another time I was not caught in the storm I was safely under the US1 bridge and every time it would thunder it was almost deafening. And lightning will strike twice in the same place, I saw it. I was under the north end of the bridge and at the south end, there is a little sandbar. I did not know this but two times I saw the lightning hit the sandbar and both times lightning came from the sky and lightning came up from the ground and they met, the thunder was instant. It was like lightning take a breath and thunder. This was before cell phones and I have always wished I had a video of it.
This was the second time I felt the combustion from thunder. I was south of Wabasso when the thunderstorm hit. I was trying to get to Hole in the Wall Island. And BAM, lightning!! and WOOSH it went through me. It is a pretty scary feeling and this happened several times before I could get to safety. I know I must have some dedicated Guardian Angles. My husband gets upset with me when I tell him about these close calls so now I just tell him about the parts where I am safely under the trees.
Thinking of the feeling from the lightning/thunder I am reminded of the same feeling from planes when I was a child. Cape Canaveral is something like 60 miles north of me and in the sixties they were testing the sound barrier. I am guessing I was 8 or 9 years old or maybe younger and a plane would come overhead flying very low and every time they did this, there would be a loud boom and I could feel it run through me. I looked forward to seeing them because I knew what was going to happen. And that is almost the same feeling of having lightning hit too close to you. I wonder if that is what the lightning is doing, breaking the sound barrier?