Saturday, May 26, 2007

Glug, Glug.

Dredged from th bottom
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
Thursday evening was bright and sunny. There was a slight breeze but nothing much. It was just the sort of evening that I wanted to give Tomsk his maiden voyage on the boat club water.

When we arrived at the lake there were a couple of other people sailing but they were just finishing up. Having the water to yourself is handy just in case the steering isn't too good. Other boats on hand to rescue you from the middle of the lake are also appreciated though. If these come with owners who can be relied on to shut up when you have problems unless they actually have something helpful to say, so much the better.

On arrival we were greeted with the good news that the fish had gone.

Our boating lake is infested with carp. Originally they were introduced to eat the weed. This worked fine but without a predator they have breed like aquatic rabbits. The landlord has “helped” by feeding them every evening meaning we can't even rely on a lack of food to reduce the numbers. He even feeds them from the oh so handy landing stage, so as soon as you stand on the stage to launch a boat they appear underneath you making the water appear to boil.

Last weekend there was a fishing party who pulled 200lbs of carp out and transferred them to a quarantine area somewhere before they go to another bit of water. There are still fish present and even the odd big 'un but nothing like the numbers there were before. This ought to safeguard the boats for a while – there have a been a few fish attacks and more than one Slingshot has leapt in or out of the water after clobbering a sea monster.

Anyway, I set up, put my peg on the frequency board and launched Tomsk. First we made a gentle circuit of the lake to check that radio reception worked at a distance. All seemed OK there but a tugboat isn't meant to just tootle around, it's supposed to do a job.

The club has a boat designed to be towed. An old hull has been fitted out to look boat shaped with a line fixed to the front. At about 4 feet long it's a bit of a monster compared to little Tomsk but I had checked in the past how much pressure was needed to move it and felt that my boat was up to the task.

First results were good. The pair successfully negotiated the narrow passage between the overflow pipe and bank, something many boats can't do on their own, and headed for the middle of the water.

Everything looked pretty good. I was so pleased I wanted a photo of the event to post on this blog – so dear reader, what happens next is partly your fault.

I had forgotten to take a proper camera but my mobile 'phone does a decent job. All I needed to do was take it out of my pocket, open it, press the button on the side to switch the camera of and then take the photo. While fiddling around with this I stopped Tomsk. Of course the tow boats momentum kept it going and it quickly caught the tug up.

So I move forward again and stopped. The same thing happens. By this time the pair is rather nearer the bank than I would prefer so I tried to pull away. Now I'm not an experienced tugboat sailor and anyway I was messing around trying to take a picture. Tomsk isn't very heavy so attempting to pull it's load in a very different direction wasn't the cleverest thing in the world. My boat tilted enough for water to get in over the bulwarks.

I realised what was happening because the model was sitting lower in the water than normal. Reasoning that grounding on the edge was better than sinking in the middle, I made a run for the bank. That didn't work very well as I was towing a big, heavy boat.
Tomsk continued to get lower in the water. The sort of lower that means most of the boat isn't visible any more. And then the sort of lower that submarines do while working. This was Bad.

Now when this sort of thing happens to most boats you have to assume that they are lost. Our lake isn't that deep – about 5 feet I think – but visibility is nil and so you are reduced to poking around with a stick from the club dingy. However the line to the tow boat was still tight.

Derek brought out his famous boat retriever – a fishing line with a tennis ball on the end – and managed to snag the big boat. We pulled it in to the side and gentled heaved it up a slippery bank. Luck was with us and the tow line stayed tight bringing up a muddy and wet Tomsk.

Of course my boat was full of water and covered in sticky mud. This was poured out and wiped off as best we could at the waterside. Switching back on showed the speed control seemed to be OK but couldn't get a signal. I opened up the receiver and poured water out of it. The whole lot was left on the bench for half an hour to dry as the weather was still nice.

Fortunately all the people who around were helpful and simply suggested this was s job for an airing cupboard. With a bit of luck once everything dries out properly I'll be OK. At worst the receiver will need to be replaced.

Looking on the bright side, Tomsk can do the job I built him for. I'll probably give the towing competition a miss as I'm working on the limits of the boats abilities though. Besides it's another example of the jinx that seems to hit me when I try competitive boat modelling !

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