Not everyone a boat expert

Published 10:42 pm Monday, February 22, 2010

Who is that fellow up there called “Pig Head?” Before I could answer, he asked, “Did you know that he is here trying to get one of our patrol boats?”

The chief was furious! I was sort of speechless because I remembered a few years back that someone in my favorite organization at the time, the Chilton County Rescue Squad, asked me, “What do they do with the old boats when you get through with them?”

I explained they had to be declared surplus, and then they were sold just like all other state surplus. As an afterthought, I told him this is the last boat he needed for his service. You need something wide and close to the water.” I could tell he already had visions of riding in a patrol boat!

Next thing we know is that our representative is out at the shop picking out a patrol boat! The only boat that we had was usable and just not in service at the time. I knew that boat was gone!

The first thing they do at the surplus lot is strip the boats of anything that might cause it to be mistaken as an official boat. That boat left our shop (blue light and all) with just a promise that the lettering and everything would be removed!

You must also remember that in those days almost everyone was a reserve deputy or in a posse. Things were about to get lively in Chilton. It was a long time before I was able to get them to comply with the chief’s request, but they were about to have some unexpected “downtime.”

There is something very mystical about boats. Everybody thinks they were born knowing how to operate a boat—yes, any kind of boat! That is the absolute No. 1 problem on the lakes. Nobody climbs in a plane and says, “Anybody can do it; all you have to do is guide it!”

Well, the squad came out in force, all in uniform ready to ride in that patrol and blow that whistle and turn on that light. They launched it right there at Higgins Ferry. One of the outspoken guys that happened to live on the lake was self-appointed to take it out first.

A quick description of the boat. First of all, it was a inboard-outboard boat, meaning the engine was a basic automobile engine, but the “out-drive,” which consists of all the gears, shafts and propeller, was outside—raised and lowered by a trim switch at the controls. Now, the main purpose was for trailering or to keep the prop off the bottom when you are not running!

OK, the captain is at the controls, the boat is in the water but not far enough back, so he starts it anyway. A lot of rocks and mud is flying for a while as everybody looked on. Finally, the mud and rocks settle down, and he hits reverse again. This time, nothing happened except “red-lining” the tach. They pulled that baby out, and the prop was completely gone and there was obvious damage to the out-drive!

It was a long time before we saw the patrol boat again. One day up at Lavada’s, I saw a couple of uniformed folks (not to be named) launch the boat, with a new paint job and out- drive and everything. It was obvious they had a lesson on the out-drive but not quite enough.

The police docked the boat with the out-drive all the way up. I didn’t notice that it was running, and I asked after the second cup of coffee, “How’s the boat running?” “We haven’t ran it yet; just letting it warm up!”

What!? You see, with the out-drive out of the water, it picks up no cooling water, so she must have had a horrible end of life, sitting there coughing and sizzling. RIP.