Riptide Report: Early-Season Warning

The recent bout of warm, sunny weather on Cape Cod, combined with rumors of fresh striped bass and bluefish in waters to the south, was more than enough to prompt a pre-season shakedown of the Riptide. As it turned out, Capt. Shaun Ruge and Paul Michele of Navionics also needed to do a quick beta test on a new software update, so I had my crew. Perfect timing to be sure. At 1630 we splashed the Riptide at Bourne Marina and headed out.

 I asked how long
he was stuck, to which he replied “3 hours”! We were cold after a 15-minute run and wearing heavy coats and hats. He must have been freezing.

Once we hit the water, the sun and warmth quickly vanished, as thick fog and a chilly breeze awaited just beyond the marina. We cleared the no-wake zone and let the new Verados loose.

Passing the Mass Maritime Academy, we noticed a small boat in the middle of the flats just off the campus. I came off plane and tried to get a closer look. The boat had rods onboard, and the motor was trimmed up. It wasn’t moving, but wasn’t anchored. From a distance it was tough to figure out what was up. We guessed that perhaps someone was shellfishing, so we continued on our short tour.

We ran out to Wings Neck and found more fog and a stiff chop, but no birds or fish, so I spun us around and headed back to the ramp. As we approached the Maritime Academy again, the boat was still there. We were only gone 15 minutes or so, but the fog had lifted some and we were able to see the entire flat. There was nobody in sight.

SAT map of area.

I got as close as I could—about 150 yards—from the boat. We yelled and whistled, but got no response. The boat seemed to be caught on a high spot on the flats and was rocking and turning in the wind. I decided to hail the Coast Guard and let them know what we saw.

Much to my surprise, I got a response from Group Chatham, then from Castle Hill, Rhode Island. Gotta love a great VHF radio! I requested Group Sandwich, but in return got Sector Southeast New England. I advised them of the situation and answered all of their questions while they dispatched a small boat. In the meantime Ruge and Michele keep yelling toward the boat.

After about 5 minutes, a man who looked to be in his late 60s stood up inside the boat. He wasn’t dressed for the weather, and he looked cold! With the tide now in his favor, he tried poling the 17′ boat towards us. Once he got into a little bit of water, he fired up the motor and slowly pushed towards us.

I asked if he was all right. He was shivering and shaking but he said he was okay. I asked how long he was stuck, to which he replied “3 hours”! We were cold after a 15-minute run and wearing heavy coats and hats. He must have been freezing. It appears he was hunkered on the floor of the boat to get out of the chilling wind.

I didn’t see a VHF antenna on his boat, and he never answered when we were communicating with the Coast Guard, so if he had a radio it didn’t appear to be on or working. He wanted to get into Bourne and get warm, so we relayed his info to the Coast Guard and waited onsite as instructed. The Army Corps picked up the conversation between us and launched the Cataumet to assist if needed. We met up with them, and the CG advised that they would recall the small boat now that everything was under control. They thanked us for the assistance. Bourne Fire was at the ramp when we returned.

Although not an emergency, it had to be a chilly ordeal for the boater. He got his boat on the trailer and was able to get warm inside his vehicle. We put the Riptide on the trailer and headed for home.

This turned out to be a positive ending to a potentially bad situation. It’s also a good time to mention that if you are planning to sea-trail a boat or do some fishing, you should understand that you are pretty much on your own. Unseasonably weather aside, remember that it’s still March, and it’s cold out there. Make sure you have all your safety gear onboard, and carry a VHF and PLB, even if you’re “just going for a short test run.”

We talked about this on the ride home, and we all agreed that before we sat in the cold, windy fog I’d have been lobbing rocket flares onto the parade field at MMA that and the billowing clouds of orange canned smoke that the SW wind would have blown right onto the campus would have gotten us home PDQ. There was plenty of help on the MMA campus, but it didn’t appear the operator had any way to reach them, or simply chose not to.

Regardless of the reasons, at least things ended well, and everyone got back to shore in one piece.

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