As an angler and a guide, it seems that there is always something unexpected that has to be handled between my truck, boat and trailer. Yeah, there are a bunch of moving parts in each of those systems that have to be working correctly for a trip to succeed.
So last week, I have a series of guided trips set up over three days to fish at San Luis. The weather looks good and I have meticulously checked everything. I’m excited and ready!
My first-day trip with some guests turns out well. We get some nice stripers and everything is working perfectly. I already was excited about day 2, planning to meet those folks at 8 a.m. at the dock and fish till dark. Fast forward to Wednesday morning at 6:30. I’m putting the boat in before my folks arrive and have everything ready for them when I get in to start my Mercury 250HP Pro XS.
Now, you have to understand, I’m never comfortable until I get my engine started and running. I’m just a little paranoid about things suddenly happening and I usually let out a sigh of relief when it starts. With that, I fire up the big engine and as it begins purring I idle out from the dock. It’s now 7 a.m.
About 50 feet from the dock, the engine just completely dies. No sputtering. Nothing! Dead! No!!! Bad battery connection? No fuel getting to the engine? Did I hit my “run” switch somehow? My brain was jumping all over the place as I tried to restart the engine. It was turning over, but not catching!
My day looked like it was going to take an unexpected turn, right into the dumpster. What to do, Roger? I called the guests, who had gotten as far as Los Banos, to cancel. They understood and headed home. And it was a beautiful day … ouch!
My only hope to salvage my final trip for Thursday is to put the boat on the trailer and head at light speed back to Fresno and my mechanic, Bill Manuszak at Ed’s Marine. Could he even look at it and was it something he could fix that day? I had to just put my head down in faith and go for it. The shop wasn’t even open yet as I hit Highway 152 back to Fresno.
I reach someone at the shop at 8:15 a.m. and he tells me that the work backlog is light and he thinks that Bill might be able to take a look, though he won’t be back til lunch. My odds just went down – a bunch!
I pull into the shop at 9:30 and unhook the boat. Bill’s going to look at it as soon as he gets back. I wasn’t going to call my guests for Thursday till I knew what we had. The long wait was beginning, and I was anxious! I had left everything at the hotel in Santa Nella in my haste.
The upshot was that Bill calls at 4 p.m. and tells me it was a fuel pump. Double ouch! However, he thought he might be able to put in a used one to get me through. Really? I return to the shop at 5 just as he finishes. It worked, so I jump in the truck and scream back to Los Banos for a late dinner with a friend. Ecstatic, what were the odds? Yeah, Bill!
Next morning, we launch and the engine fires up! On a hunch, I decide to also fire up my little kicker motor to be sure we have a backup. Nothing! Our trolling motor was now lifeless. No!
We had a sudden hunch it might be a missing electrical connection. Bill had been moving so fast to get me going, he might have missed one connection in the rush. So when I found a stray wire way back in a corner we hooked it up and the engine started! We had overcome the odds! Victory!
We had a great fishing day, one we appreciated all the more since it had taken a whole day of frantic work and ingenuity to achieve! Yeah, I’ve learned: 1) Never give up. 2) Make sure you have a great mechanic. Yes, I think Bill earned the endorsement in spades! I was dead otherwise! LOL.