Part 2 – “The Maiden Voyage”
Back in August, our article “Ken & Libby’s Boat Adventure – Part 1”, described how Ken and Libby bought their long-awaited fishing boat. That was the “drydock report.” The boat had not been in the water yet. Ken was taking the United States Power Squadron basic powerboat certification course. The maiden voyage was yet to come with Ken and Libby scheduled to take the boat to Lake Almanor in September for a week of cruising, learning the boat and components and getting in a little fishing.
Well, Ken did pass the certification course. Whew! It was tough!
Now, here’s the report on the maiden voyage and the Lake Almanor trip.
To bring you up to date in case you did not read the original report, Ken and Libby had purchased an 18’ Klamath “Windshield” Fishing Boat. The boat has a welded aluminum hull. The motor is a 50hp Tohatsu 4 stroke outboard motor.
The maiden voyage actually took place the day after the “drydock report” newsletter article went out. The fish finder/chart plotter had been purchased but not been installed yet, so the voyage was made without it.
It was a fine day on the Delta. Ken’s brother Stacey, who had been in the Coast Guard was along to provide guidance in boat handling, operation and rules of navigation on busy Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta waterways.
They launched at the Brannon Island State Recreation Area launching facilities. Stacey had recommended it for its convenient location and large, easy to use launching ramps. Only they weren’t so easy to use that day. There was construction going on right next to the approach to the launching ramp and good old Ken had to do a tricky quick turn to get the boat down the ramp. After a few false starts, he got it down and the boat was launched quite smoothly.
The voyage proceeded with Stacey first taking the wheel and getting to know the handling as well as the motor. It did not take long to experience incidents of the motor over-revving. It sounds like a runaway motor. Kind of scary. It’s a good thing Stacey was along because Ken had no idea what it was or why it was happening.
Stacey explained it was a phenomenon called “ventilation.” This is where the motor prop creates an air pocket in the water and the prop spins wildly in that pocket. This obviously is not a good thing. Stacey suspected the position of the motor trim stop pin was set too high and they went back to the marina and proceeded to re-set the pin to a lower setting. Once that was done there were no more problems with that!
Let’s just say Ken was very happy he had taken Stacey up on his offer to come along!
The rest of the maiden voyage was very enjoyable as Ken took over the controls and began learning proper handling. They tested out things like how fast the boat would go. How slow it would go. How sharp you could turn safely. How to handle wake waves and more.
The ultimate for Ken was coming upon a big ship returning downriver from the Port of Stockton. He got to experience first hand how to operate in the presence of one of those big guys! Stacey directed Ken to hit the ship’s wake at a safe distance behind it, at a particular speed and angle. He wanted to see How well the new boat’s hull handled the pounding.
As intended the boat slammed the wake hard. It was a big wake made by a big ship! Stacey said he was quite satisfied with the hull’s performance as well as Ken’s performance on the wheel.
Coming back to the launch ramp and trailering the boat were all uneventful. On the ride back home, Stacey pronounced the boat to be an excellent choice and the motor was an exceptionally good one! Big relief for Ken!
Next adventure was to be Lake Almanor!
At the appointed time, Ken and Libby made the trip to Lake Almanor. It was a long drive and much of it on winding mountain roads, but the truck and trailer handled perfectly.
They arrived at the Knotty Pine Resort, on the lake, very late in the day, so there was no time to launch the boat that day. After unpacking their “stuff,” Ken did have time to go down and check out the launch ramp. He wanted to see what he would deal with on his first solo launch. Oh boy! Was this ever going to be a challenge!
Backing the boat down the ramp was not going to be much of a problem. From that point on was a different story. The resort ramp had no floating dock to launch a boat straight back and tie up to while you pull the truck and trailer out to park, and then come back and actually launch.
Instead, all of the boat docks were at a 90-degree angle crosswise from the bottom of the ramp. In order to launch, Ken had to attach a 50’ rope to the bow of the boat and once the boat was floating, immediately run over rocks and other obstacles to get to the first crosswise guest slip. Then using the rope, maneuver the boat around the end of the first floating dock and turn it 90 degrees into the slip.
On top of that, Ken did not have a 50’ rope. What to do? Well, he would find out the next day.
So next day after finding out he could not get a 50’ rope at the resort marina, Ken drove into Chester. The little town on the shore of Lake Almanor. He could not find a 50’ rope in either of the two stores that had ropes. He could not get the proper type of rope in 100’ length and cut it either. Ken did have two 20’ docking lines and decided to tie them together and hope it would work.
Then Ken and Libby proceeded to load stuff onto the boat while on the trailer before launching. That took a while. By the time all was ready, it was early afternoon.
Just as Ken was backing the boat down the launch ramp the wind came up. It was a big wind blowing straight over the lake and through the marina to the launch ramp. They were going to have to launch against this wind!
Launch it they did. Onlookers had quite the show. The 40’ rope was tied to the bow and once the trailer was down in the water enough for the boat to float, Ken scrambled over the rocks while Libby pulled the trailer up the ramp.
The 40’ of joined docking line did work, but Ken had to lean out over the water as he ran around to the dock. The wind pushed the boat back toward the ramp and it tried hard to pull Ken into the water more than once. It was an awkward trip!
Finally, Ken succeeded in getting the boat pulled out and around and into the first slip, called the “guest slip.” From there Ken and Libby were to fire up the motor and run the boat to their assigned slip, where the boat would stay while at the marina.
You may remember that Ken and Libby decided to go to Lake Almanor after the summer season was over to miss the crowds and have lots of time to have a leisurely learning experience with the boat. Well, they did miss the crowds, but there was no leisurely experience from the get-go!
The first thing to do was to move the boat to their assigned slip and once tied up there, figure out what to do next. The wind was really howling by this time!
To get to the assigned slip meant backing the boat out of the guest slip, immediately stopping and turning 90 degrees to the left and proceed to the assigned guest slip and then turn another 90 degrees to the right and enter the slip. Not so easy to do! Especially with the howling wind pushing them in the direction of the launch ramp while maneuvering. To top that off, there was very little space between the slips they were going out of and into and the slips directly behind them. If Ken could not make the turn quickly enough, he would bump into docks or boats behind him. No leisurely practice here!
After several tries with many mistakes and a couple slight taps on other boats and docks, Ken finally got the boat into the right slip. What an experience that was!
It became obvious at this time that Libby’s car back seat driver’s license was also good for boat backseat driving!
By this time most boats had either come off the lake or were coming off. The wind was just too bad. So, there would be no trip on the lake for Ken and Libby that day. They decided it was definitely cocktail time!
The next day dawned calm. This day, Ken and Libby finally got the boat on the lake and spent the day cruising and learning to run it. Libby got to take her turn at the controls and the “First Mate” did quite well!
A bit about the fish finder here. Before the maiden voyage with his brother and after way too much “paralysis of analysis” Ken selected a Lowrance Elite Ti 7 fish finder/chart plotter unit. For the chart plotting, he selected Navionics Platinum+ chart plotter software. As stated previously, it had not been installed by the time of the maiden voyage. By the time we got to Lake Almanor, it had been installed.
Ken had originally planned to install it himself but quickly learned this was a job he should leave to a professional. He contacted John Shaner of Shaner Boat Works in Brentwood and asked if he could do the installation. “No problem,” John said. “Bring it over and I’ll do it.” Big relief for Ken!
So, the fish finder was properly installed and ready to go. However, the chart plotter component was not quite ready. Ken found out at the last minute that the memory chip that would go in the fish finder/chart plotter unit was the wrong size. There was no time to get the right one before going to the lake, so Ken and Libby would have to try to use the bare bones system that came with the unit until the right chip could be obtained.
Learning the fish finder/chart plotter was one of the goals of the trip. These are complicated technologies! There was a “quick start” manual for the fish finder, but no actual owner’s manual. Most of what was needed to learn that functionality was through tutorials online. Of course, we could not do that on the lake, so we managed as best we could.
It seemed we got it to where it was telling us there were fish at such and such a depth, but we were suspicious it was something else as well. It was showing just too much fish everywhere we went.
It did tell us the water depth though, which was a very good thing! Learning what was fish and what was not would have to come later.
Ken and Libby were able to get the chart plotter functioning well enough to be able to see just where they were and where they were heading. This unit has a GPS component that makes that possible. They were also able to save a particular location and later navigate to the position.
The way it was done was very clunky though and Ken knew it would be much slicker once the right software was working. He had peeked at the 130-page owner manual for that. Another “learning curve” coming up for good old Ken!
The weather that day was just wonderful! Not too hot. Not too cool! I forgot to mention before that the night time temperatures had been getting close to freezing. Also, thankfully, no more wind!
Ken and Libby cruised the whole big lake and stopped for a nice picnic lunch and had a very, very nice day!
The next day was another good day weather-wise. Ken and Libby got started with the fishing. A friend who was very familiar with Lake Almanor had told us about some good spots for catching the big fish, so we tried them out. Unfortunately, we just had a few bites that day.
Lake Almanor is interesting in that it is so big and has a reputation for plenty of big fish. The locals and fishing guides all know where the good fishing is as well, so these areas can be pretty busy with a lot of boats. Even though the high season was over, there were still a considerable number of boats in these areas. We had to operate “in traffic” so to speak.
Unlike the cars on the freeways in California though, everyone operated their boats at safe speeds and safe intervals and were courteous to each other. In talking back and forth with other fishermen, nobody else was catching anything that day either.
The next day was our final day on the lake. We could not stay out the whole day as we had to get back to the marina and unload the boat and get it back on the trailer that day.
Again, we hit the “good spots.” We still did not know if our fish finder was actually showing fish. Libby did hook one obviously big fish but lost it before she got it up to where we could see it. Ken guessed it was a good size trout. Later in shallower water, Ken hooked the biggest smallmouth bass he had ever seen but lost that one before Libby could get it in the net.
Of course, Libby knew for sure her fish was bigger than Ken’s! Ken said it most likely was. After all, didn’t Libby always catch the biggest fish? Or should he say lose the biggest fish? 😉
The other fishermen were not doing well either. So at least Ken and Libby were not the only ones!
It was about 2 pm when Ken and Libby headed for the marina. The last time into the slip saw Ken do it in one try! Later he got it into the guest slip to be moved back onto the trailer in one try as well! What a sense of accomplishment that was!
Taking the boat out of the water and getting it all ready to hit the road the next day went smoothly. Captain Ken and First Mate Libby were becoming quite the nautical team!
So ended Ken & Libby’s Boat Adventure – Part 2. Where will the next adventure be? We don’t know yet, but it will have to wait until after Christmas. Ken also wants to do some additional things to the boat as well. Other than the fish finder, he can handle most of the other things. Or at least, he thinks so right now.
If you liked this story, you should check out Ken and Libby’s Big Lake Shasta Adventure! You’re gonna love it. 🙂