Trust your radar

I had been up Desolation Sound with my boat for a week or two, building or repairing som polyethylene fish pens and small hydro power installations. The weather was bad, rain wind and fog, not a wishful combination on any seas. I was tired after working hard on my own, feeling good tired, knowing you had worked hard for your money. Longing to get back to town, get some rest and supplies.

I spent two summers working like this, and loved it. The careless freedom on the sea, the healthy life, going for a swim instead of having a shower before breakfast, no shave, hard work, good money, the fishing, the oysters, eating only fresh self caught seafood, the local people, the wild life, times to remember.

I knew the waters well, but I like to have some landmarks to follow, the evening there were nothing to see. For a small boat in these waters, there are two things to worry about, floating logs and tug boats towing log booms, never get between a tug and the boom or barge. In the fog and heavy seas, this is impossible without a radar. I had a small one installed, I did it my self, but what a blessing, I could now travel safe any time any where.

I had to get a bridge of steel welded, over the cabin, to install the radar on, it was a small Raytheon, a small colour screen, a fantastic instrument. I always had the VHF on, and I was one of the first in the area to get a mobile phone, installed in a briefcase, big antenna on my car and in the boat. The problem was, there were no repeaters, it only worked around the bigger cities.

Passing Powell River, taking the inside past Scotch Fir point, Nelson on the starboard side, Jervis Inlet on the port, past Egmont and the Skokumchuck Rapids. Not that easy in fog and weather for an amateur, the commercial boaters did it all the time.

This is about when my problem started. On the way to Porpoise Bay the inlet was blocked on the radar, just before Salmon Inlet. It looked as if a log boom was adrift blocking the whole inlet. It could be, a small tug, waiting for the right tide to ride the chuck, could have problems controlling the log boom.

I got very anxious, and careful, having never seen anything like this before. It looked as if one could get by near the shore, but in fog I liked to stay mid-channel. I did not have the sea charts out, I knew the terrain and the main features of the shoreline, enough to steer by the radar. Trusting the radar, but her something was serious wrong.

I slowed down and were feeling my way up to the “boom” crossing the inlet. No lights, no sound of engines, something was not right. As I inched toward the blocked sea, I was prepared to stop and back up if needed to. At one time the picture on the radar almost disappeared, and actually came up and on behind me. I had no idea what was going on, on the compass and the screen I was in the middle of the channel, and I had to trust that.

I don’t know at what point I realized what the problem was. But it was simple and normal, elementary somebody would say. What I saw on the radar was the powerline hight above the inlet, crossing from one point to another. I had never used the radar in good sight and daylight, and never seen that it picked up the powerline crossing.

Trust your instinct, trust your compass, trust your radar, the are always right.

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