Well, it's time once again, to contemplate the upcoming boating season, as well as reporting on the related comings and goings which seem to intersect, interact with, and modify, even the best made summer boating season plans. As usual, each season starts off differently from those in the past, and 2011 is no exception in that regard. Where in years past, I've started this treatise as early as April, this year, it's now mid May before I've even given it much thought. There are 2 primary reasons for my late to the party boating related activities this year. The larger of the 2 reasons has been the weather. Every year, the winter-to-spring transition weather is different. Last year at this time, we had weathered a very snowy winter, but then were rewarded with a rapid warm-up which jolted those outdoor activity instincts out of hibernation and into full-speed-ahead mode. This year, the winter was less snowy, but it was colder and that cold lasted for much longer. March felt like an extension of February, and even by April, we had just started playing the familiar tug of war game with old man winter, with a teaser day or two in the low 60's, but then it would return to the 40's for many days afterward. As if the slow to rise temperatures weren't enough, the heavenly faucet was also opened wide and it has been raining for more days than not. April had certainly lived up to its well-earned "April Showers" moniker, and we patiently waited for the "May Flowers" portion to take hold. But as I sit here now in mid-May, the rain has returned again with a vengence. After being lulled into a false sense of security by the previous week of nice, sunny, and spring-like weather, the past week has been 5 days in a row of rain, and the forecast for the rest of the week doesn't show many signs of improvement. And with the rain, comes a slip in temperatures. Granted, the 40's are pretty much history, but the 70's+ are hiding out again. So while the lower 60's are great for working outside, they don't bring about enthusiastic thoughts of in-water activities. Even the pool may be delayed this year, and not open until after Memorial Day, if the weather doesn't change for the better soon (and stay that way!).
Oh, I did mention that there were two reason for my delay, and that other reason has been softball. This year Heather is playing on two teams, one of which is a travel tournament team. Between practices, games, and weekend tournaments, it doesn't leave a lot of free time to get those things done around the house which need to happen before the summer fun can begin. So between rain and softball, I'm not making much headway in the chores department. Oh, and to add to all this, the price of gasoline has become ridiculous again. It's recently hit $4.00 a gallon for the first time since 2008. The reasons for this are many, but nothing puts the damper on internal combustion powered fun like the high cost of gas. Fortunately the boat's gas tank is full to the brim, so I'll get out one way or another.
The rainy, slow-to-warm, by-the-time-spring-gets-here-it'll-be-summer, weather has also put boating on the back burner for Art as well. He has some minor engine work to take care of before splashing his boat at the Chesapeake this year, but he's already 2 weeks behind last year's splash date, and is now looking at Memorial day for the main event. Here's hoping he'll have some better luck as well.
Anyway, as I mentioned last year, the family and I are planning on parking our camper on a site up at Lake Wallenpaupack for the months of June, July, and August, and docking the boat there in a slip. Plans are progressing on that front (however slowly). I'm really looking forward to this summer, and I've got about a month left before the big move. So far, I've waxed the camper and we have been buying the things we will need to extend our stays beyond the typical 3 or 4 day trip. I've also started waxing the hull of the boat, and I've got the front half done. But now I've got the hard part under most of the trailer bunks and the axles to do. It won't be fun....... I have yet to pull the boat out of the garage and unwinterize it, but that will happen in the next week or so hopefully. All I can hope for is that the persistent rain finally lets up. I'm praying that the summer doesn't get rained out. Saying that would suck is a major understatement......
Well, here it is, June already, it wasn't that long ago that I was complaining about the slow to arrive spring. Well, spring finally did arrive -- for about a week or two -- then summer took over with 90+ degree temperatures for a week or so. Then things backed off again, hanging in the upper 70's. But the good news is that the relentless rain, which soaked most of May, has finally left the building, and sunny days (most of the time) have now become the rule. It couldn't have come at a better time as the time to put together our summer campsite and dock has finally arrived. Somehow I managed to get most of the stuff ready on time and on the 11th of June I pulled the camper up to its spot, and the boat followed a few days later. Both the campsite and the dock were prepared and we took our first cruise of the 2011 season around the lake. Gas at the dock is a heart-stopping $4.79 a gallon, so I'll probably be filling up 5 gallon cans and carrying them down to the boat to save the $1+ a gallon difference between land and on-water fuel prices. It may sound like a lot of work. But $1 a gallon savings means $20 saved for every 20 gallons of gas, which is hardly chump change.
Anyway, we managed to get just about everything set up, but we'll probably still make some minor tweaks as the season wears on. I have to admit that leaving the boat up there is a bit unnerving. I'm used to it being safe and sound in the garage. Now there's nothing there but the empty boat trailer. I keep telling myself that people keep their boats in the water at the lake every year, and quite a few are fancier than mine, so I should have nothing to worry about. But I still can't shake the anxiety. And, thanks to another softball tournament, I won't be able to get back up to check on things until the 4th of July weekend. Hopefully, I won't drive myself insane before then.
And just as fast as it began, the season's over, at least as far as Lake Wallenpaupack is concerned. But it was a fun 2 months. We had quite a few good times up at the lake, and I'm looking forward to the time we get a seasonal site, which will give us the full 6 month season. This year was nice though. I got to take several 5 day trips up to the lake, and just about everything was perfect. We only had 2 days of rain the whole time I was there, and the water was nice and warm as well. One of the best times, was had over the 4th of July weekend. The annual fireworks display was set to be launched from the Wallenpaupack High School, on Monday the 4th. Naturally, practically everyone who had a boat headed down to the general vicinity Monday evening to enjoy the lake view of the show. I haven't seen fireworks over the lake since the 70's. Back then, they used to shoot them off from Epply Island, so I was especially looking forward to a lake show after all this time. You could feel the excitement in the air, as everyone headed down to the dam end of the lake as the sun started heading for it's inevitable encounter with the horizon. It was a strange ragtag "fleet" of boats that were making their way down to the opposite end of the lake. The "go-fasts" were leading the pack, followed by the "standard" runabouts and cruisers. Taking up the rear were the "barnacle barges" (Pontoon boats), which typically do not move as fast as monohull boats. Getting there didn't take us very long, and we found a nice spot adjacent to Spinnler point away from a large portion of the pack, but still with a solid view of the area where the festivities were to take place. I figured this was a safer location, as I expected there would be a mad rush back when the show was over, and I didn't want to find myself caught in the middle of a disorganized flotilla of boats in the dark. As the sun slowly dipped below the horizon, it let out its last rays of light, coloring the sky in various spectacular shades of color.
When it was finally dusk, we lit up our anchor light, along with the rest of the spectators. The little dots of white lights flicking on one-by-one reminded me of a 70's era rock concert where people would flick their BIC lighters when they liked a song, or wanted an encore.
I also noticed 2 or 3 boats with flashing red and blues, and it soon became obvious that the Fish commission was out doing spot checks making sure boaters weren't doing anything illegal or unsafe, as we all waited for the show to start. As the time was getting close, I tuned the FM radio to a local station which played patriotic songs specially choreographed to go with the fireworks. The show went on and it was great. Everyone enjoyed it......... But then the REAL fun began as the ragtag fleet assembled once again and started heading back in a huge maddening rush. It was comical to witness the mass migration during the daylight, but at night, it could become downright dangerous. So my plan was, rather than fight the initial rush, I would just idle my way slowly along and allow the crowd to disperse before making an attempt at jumping up to planing speed. And what a crowd it was.... The lake, which had been practically glass smooth throughout the fireworks show, was now suddenly transformed into a wake spewn torrent of chop, which was making it hard to hold course at idle speed. But other than that minor (and hopefully temporary) inconvenience, everything was going according to plan, as the greatest number of boats were slowly retreating into the darkness. But as what often happens to the best made plans of mice and men, it was all laid to rest when someone in our party decided that they would soon need to make a trip to the potty. So the need for speed suddenly became a little more urgent. So when I felt that the crowd had moved far enough ahead, I brought the boat up to minimum planing speed. I then made small jumps up to plane speed for a while, and then dropping back down when I saw more than a few boats clustering in the general area. I enjoy riding at night, but I did become annoyed at another of my boat's bugaboos. While the manufacturer did the smart thing and lit up the gauges in a subtle red light, which generally is less blinding to the operator, the lights which back light the boat's switches were white and their glare was somewhat blinding, and I had to cover them with a towel. I also tried using my docking lights to see better with, but they were aimed too far down to be very effective as a headlight, but hopefully they made it easier for others to see me. We eventually made it back to the dock without incident (or accidents), and thus ended a very fun outing.
While the 4th of July was the pinnacle as far as fun goes, we had plenty of other fun times cruising, anchoring out, and towing the kids around on the tube. And they never seemed to tire from this activity. One day we towed them over 15 miles up one side of the lake and back. Other days it was whipping back and forth and wake jumping. No matter how hard they were flung around, they kept going back for more. Although I did manage to launch them off of a pretty good sized wake, which left them a little dazed, but not for long.
Well, all good things must come to an end (why is that anyway?), and ours was no exception, once our 2 month say was over. With a heavy heart and much sadness, we pulled the boat out on the 17th of August. As expected, the bottom was covered with a layer of slimy brown algae growth. This was much more scum than I had ever gotten on any of my boats in the recent past. I had hoped that I would be able to triumphantly blast it off, with little more effort than the force of a pressure washer, without the need to contort my body to reach those little nooks and crannies underneath the boat. But to my disappointment, the pressure washer hardly even phased it. I ended up having to resort to spraying the bottom with muratic acid and wiping. I was only able to clean up the stern (and the outdrive) and the parts of the bottom that I could reach from the side. Hopefully the rest will come off at home. As of this writing, I have yet to get to it, and there's a nice big hurricane threatening to wreck the weekend coming up, so I probably won't get to it until Labor day weekend (hopefully THAT won't get rained out).
Well, Labor day weekend it was when I finally managed to get the boat's bottom clean again and, in the process, I found a new best friend. It's a product called "Krud Kutter". It's far safer to use than the acid, and the scum wipes right off with just a spray. And that was after it had sat and dried on for 2 weeks. So now I'm less trepidacious about leaving the boat in the water next year, as I know I can clean the bottom with relative ease (although lying on my back under the axles of the trailer while wiping off scum isn't the most fun job). One thing does bother me though and that was a few signs of corrosion on the outdrive. I don't know if that was a the result of being left in the water (which is fresh and there's no electric at the docks), or from my quick exposure to the muratic acid. I certainly don't want to see the outdrive slowly corrode away, so I'm hoping those small signs of corrosion were from the acid. We'll see next year.
Well, the season officially ended when the boat was put away for its long winter nap on the 8th of October. It was the best boating season in a long time. The boat saw far more action in the 2 months up at the lake this summer, then a whole 6 month season of hit or miss opportunities down at home from years past. I'm now up to 62 hours on the engine, which is still very light for a boat that is now 5 seasons old (Holy crap, the time flies!). I'm now looking forward to next year. Hopefully we'll get to spend more time up at the lake.
See you then!